The Prodigal Sets Out

Illustration © The Estate of John David Roberts. Reproduced with the permission of the William Roberts Society. Catalogue information based on the catalogue raisonné by David Cleall. For this and full details of the exhibitions cited, see the links below.

The Prodigal Sets Out

The Prodigal Sets Out (aka The Prodigal Son study), 1927–8
Watercolour, 19 cm x 15 cm

According to the Tate Gallery 1965 catalogue, the oil painting (now destroyed) for which this was a study was 'inspired by a visit to Germany'. In August 1927 Roberts travelled to Germany with his brother Michael, the writers H. E. Bates and Rhys Davies, a lawyer and book-collector called Cayford, and the bookseller Charles Lahr, who had published Bates and Davies and commissioned illustrations from Roberts (see Esther Lahr 1925). They sailed from Gravesend to Rotterdam, and then travelled via Cologne, Mannheim, Mainz, Coblenz, Bingen and Kreuznach to Lahr's birthplace in Wendelsheim, where for days they were plied with food and drink (Dean R. Baldwin, H. E. Bates: A Literary Life (Selinsgrove, Pa.: Susquehanna University Press, 1987), p. 72). According to Davies, throughout the trip Roberts 'seldom stopped reading a pocket New Testament' (Rhys Davies, Print of a Hare's Foot: An Autobiographical Beginning (London: Heinemann, 1969), p. 171).
PROVENANCE: Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (gift of Mrs H. V. Evatt 1967)
EXHIBITION HISTORY: London Artists' Association (1) 1929, St George's Gallery 1930, Melbourne 2007, Katoomba 2018

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