‘The Winter Sun’ oil on canvas (667mm x 984mm) purchased by the Chantrey Bequest from the New Gallery for £315, proposed by Lord Leighton. This painting is now in the Tate Gallery. Completed in 1891 when North was 49 and living at Beggearn Huish House in West Somerset. Exhibited at the New Gallery Summer Exhibition under the title ‘The Winter Sun in Wild Woodland’ with the following quotation:
“But now sad Winter hath the day
And Pheobus werey of his yearly taskes
Y- stabled hath his steeds in lowly lay”
Perhaps North’s Masterwork in oil – and it is unlikely that he ever reached the same emotional intensity again in that medium. It is the sombre tone that provides the key to the work.
North’s father Charles had died while in his son’s care at Beggearn Huish the previous year and this is North’s allegorical eulogy. The heart rending sadness is palpable in the dark tones and in the cold winter skies – the sun has been robbed of its warmth and the landscape is rendered desolate. In comparison to much of North’s works of the time this strikes a discordant note – one that explains the critics’s confusion. The branching drooping sapling can be read in this context as an allegorical symbol.