When Nick first visted Mr. Deacon’s shop, it was closed. “Through the plate glass, obscured in watery depths, dark green like the interior of an aquarium’s compartments, a Victorian work table, papier mache trays, Staffordshire figures, and a varnished scrap screen — upon the sombrely coloured montage of which could faintly be discerned shiny versions of Bubbles and For He Had Spoken Lightly of a Woman’s Name … [BM 172/163 ]”
Bubbles, a picture of innocent childhood, is by John Everett Millais, whom we have already introduced as the painter of The Boyhood of Raleigh. Millais sold reproduction rights to Bubbles to the A.F. Pears Soap Company, which made it into a massively distributed advertising image, adding a bar of soap to the picture. When Tate Britain presented a Millais exhibit in 2007, the headline of a review in The Guardian summarized the effect on Millais’ status: “Tate sets out to rescue reputation of artist tarnished by Bubbles.” (The Guardian review, for those interested, also revisits Millais’ scandalous romantic life.) When Lever Brothers acquired A.F. Pears Company, it also acquired the original oil, which it now displays in the Lady Lever Gallery. We will bet that the image in Mr. Deacon’s window showed the bar of soap.
John Arthur Lomax (1857 – 1923) is a British artist, who is nearly forgotten today. He does not even have a Wikipedia entry (accessed 11/16/13), the ultimate sign of disrespect in the Internet Age. For He Had Spoken Lightly of a Woman’s Name is more an illustration for a boys’ adventure story than a remembered work of art. Jenkins shows that Mr. Deacon’s store was a repository of popular culture rather than of high art, but tastes change, and today similar items, perhaps more polished than Mr. Deacon’s examples, are sold for hundreds of dollars, as illustrated by the three images at the beginning of the post.
One of our readers has provided a photo of a colored reproduction of the Lomax work.