Returning to the Fold by Henry William Banks Davis, 1884
"Returning to the Fold" Originally Painted by Henry William Banks Davis and Engraved by Charles Cousen from The Art Journal, 1884
A plen air painter of pastoral scenes, Henry William Banks Davis was born in England in 1833. He is famous for landscapes focusing on animal subjects. Returning to the Fold is an oil on canvas painted in 1880. His primary inspiration during his artistic career was the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood to which he owes the almost mystical atmosphere of his paintings. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, and also became one of the members, called Royal Academicians. (The R.A. at the end of his name on the print is an acronym for this position.) Towards the end of his life, he began working on larger canvases in contrast to his earlier, more intimate works. Davis died in 1914, and today, three of his works - including Returning to the Fold - are housed in the Tate Museum in London, England.
This engraving of the painting depicts a 19th century English farmer and his dogs leading the herd back home. While the image appears to be fairly straightforward, symbolism was used often in otherwise mundane Romantic paintings. Because of Davis' love for the works of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who often painted religious and mythological imagery, Returning to the Fold may be an allegory for Christian belief and behavior. The title indicates that one of the sheep had wandered off, but has now been returned to the rest of the flock. Likewise, Christianity emphasizes mercy, acceptance and the repentance of sinners. Christ in the House of His Parents by John Everett Millais used a similar symbolic technique. That work showed a young Jesus being comforted by his mother after getting a small wound, sheep crowd outside the building, a symbol of his later followers.
The Art Union Monthly Journal was first published by Hodgson and Graves in 1839, but was later purchased by Virtue & Co. one decade later due to financial struggles. Although they attempted to reinvent the publication, even renaming it as The Art Journal, finances did not improve until 1852. The journal printed engravings of significant artworks, such as Returning to the Fold (published in their February 1884 issue), to accompany their essays on the pieces, the artists, and artistic movements. Critics that worked for The Art Journal were deeply concerned with the progress of art and idolized the Old Masters of the High Renaissance. The journal, which was in print until 1912, also reviewed the Royal Academy's annual exhibitions and is now remembered for a decade-long crusade against the work of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
- Onastasia Youssef