James Sant, R.A., Principal Painter in Ordinary to Queen Victoria, (British, 1820 – 1916), Enoch, Phillip and Annie in the Cave, signed with monogram, oil on canvas, 52″ x 42″ — displayed at the 1866 Royal Academy & exhibited at the 1904 St. Louis Universal Exhibition
James Sant was born in South London and first showed artistic inclination at the age of eight, when he became obsessed with copying a sketch by Landseer, a British painter who was famous for his paintings of animals. In 1840, at the age of twenty, Sant entered the Royal Academy Schools and quickly became a popular portrait artist. In 1872 Sant was appointed Principal Painter in Ordinary (official portraitist) to Queen Victoria and the royal family, producing many pictures of the Royals and the aristocracy. He lived to the age of 96 and produced an astonishing number of canvases for exhibition at the Academy, some 250 of them. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1870, but resigned in 1914 to “make room for younger men.”
In addition to his portraits, Sant produced a large number of allegorical paintings based on romantic literature and poetry. James Sant’s painting Enoch, Philip, and Annie in the Cave is based on the epic poem Enoch Arden, published in 1864 by Alfred, Lord Tennyson during his tenure as England’s Poet Laureate. Enoch Arden is a somber poem based on a true story of a sailor who is thought to be drowned at sea, but returns home after many years to find his wife remarried. In Tennyson’s poem, Enoch Arden, Philip Ray and Annie Lee grow up together. The hero of the poem, Enoch Arden, is a fisherman turned merchant sailor. Enoch, leaves his wife Annie and three children to go to sea with his old captain, who offers him work after he had lost his job. During his voyage, Enoch is shipwrecked on a desert island, and remains lost and missing for ten years. When he returns home, he finds his wife, who believed him dead, happily married to his childhood friend, Philip, who has loved Annie since they were children. Enoch’s life remains unfulfilled, with one of his children now dead, and his wife and remaining children now being cared for by his onetime rival. Tragically, Enoch never reveals himself to his wife and children; he loves her too much to spoil her new happiness. He eventually dies of a broken heart.