Artwork of the Day – John Henry Frederick Bacon

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Liverpool artwork of the day – Monday April 30 2007. ‘The Wedding Morning’ 1892 John Henry Frederick Bacon (1866 – 1913) Oil on canvas 118 x 163cm at Lady Lever

I love Lever’s own quote – ‘only a moderate picture, but very suitable for a soap advertisement’. How to boost an artist’s ego eh?

Leverhulme bought this painting from the 1892 Royal Academy private view, specifically for use as an advertisement for Sunlight Soap. It shows a young bride, preparing for her wedding day and surrounded, as is every new bride, by well-wishers and curious onlookers.

The painting received mixed reviews at its first showing. It was described by critics as both ‘an essay in lighting’ and as being ‘hackneyed’. Lever himself described it as ‘only a moderate picture, but very suitable for a soap advertisement’.

In the advertisement, bars of Sunlight Soap were substituted for the clock on the mantelpiece and for the cup and saucer on the table.

‘Sunlight Soap’ paintings

Also held within this collection are the ‘Sunlight Soap’ paintings, bought specifically to advertise Lever Brothers’ products and with which Leverhulme began his art collection. In these works he was looking for cheerful figures of ordinary people set in authentically humble interiors. It was in this area that the expanding soap market lay.

Some artists, such as William Frith, objected to the use of their paintings as soap adverts. Leverhulme gradually ceased simply reproducing their paintings with his company name printed over them. Instead he issued high quality colour reproductions of paintings as prizes for collecting quantities of soap wrappers. These images often emphasized the importance of good clothes, personal appearance and cleanliness in general.

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