John Shirley Fox, R.B.A. (British, 1860–1939)

After "And When Did You Last See Your Father" by William Frederick Yeames


John Shirley Fox, R.B.A. (British, 1860–1939), watercolor, signed lower right, 27.5″ x 37″ [after the original oil by William Frederick Yeames (1878)]

John Shirley Fox, R.B.A. studied in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts under the famous French academic artist, Jean-Léon Gérôme. Fox started exhibiting at the Paris Salon at the early age of 16. Starting in 1890, he exhibited at the Royal Academy, and was elected a full Member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1892.

He exhibited 15 paintings at the Royal Academy, 49 at the RBA, 2 at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, 1 at the Royal Oil Painters Institute, 4 at the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolor and variously in the provinces.

He lived in London in 1890, but later moved to Marlborough, keeping an apartment in London. He was married to Ada R. Holland, a portrait and figure painter who is also a listed artist and frequent exhibitor. Fox enjoyed fly fishing, and wrote two books, one about fishing and one about his experiences as an art student in Paris. His biographical details may be found in The Dictionary of British Artists (Collector’s Club) and The Dictionary of British Artists by Grant Waters.

And When Did You Last See Your Father? is a watercolor painted after the original oil by William Frederick Yeames (1855-1918).

The painting depicts a scene in an imaginary Royalist household during the English Civil War (1642 – 1646). The Parliamentarians have taken over the house and are questioning the boy about his Royalist father’s whereabouts. Behind him, a Roundhead soldier holds the boy’s crying sister, who waits her turn to be questioned. At the back of the hall the mother and elder daughter wait anxiously on the boy’s reply. You can see the mother’s fear and anxiety as she waits for the boy’s answer. The boy is obviously quite distraught; if the boy tells the truth he will endanger his father, but if he lies he will go against the ideal of honesty undoubtedly instilled in him by his parents.

During the English Civil War, Roundheads (Parliamentarians) and Cavaliers (Royalist) fought against each other in order to gain control of the country. The Roundheads were unhappy with the way King Charles I ruled the country. The Cavaliers were loyal to the King. Oliver Cromwell, a leading Roundhead, had the King executed and then became leader of the country.

The original oil painting, one of the most popular works hanging in the Walker Art Gallery, has been widely reproduced and is often found in history textbooks. It is also the subject of a popular 1890s song and has been replicated as a waxwork tableau at Madame Tussaud’s in London.

For more information about the painting see: