Robert Bateman, Little Red Riding Hood

Photo courtesy of Caroline True (All rights reserved)


Country House
Mells Manor
Little Red Riding Hood
Initialled 'RB' and dated '1866'
Medium and support
Overall height: 33 cm, Overall width: 47 cm
Robert Bateman (1842-1922)
Catalogue Number
  • Inscribed on the reverse ‘R. Bateman’


Robert Bateman was the third son of the horticulturalist James Bateman, FRS (1811–1897), who from the 1840s created a series of celebrated gardens at his home, Biddulph Grange, Staffordshire. The present painting, initialled ‘RB’ and dated 1866, is one of three watercolours by Batemen owned by William Graham; the other two, The Robin and A Girl reading, were sold in his posthumous sale at Christie’s in 1886.1 At the time he painted Little Red Riding Hood Bateman was a student at the Royal Academy Schools and Graham, in purchasing the work, was evidently concerned to support the career of the budding artist, who was in turn inspired by the example of Edward Burne-Jones.

The setting for the picture is Bateman’s family home, Biddulph Old Hall, and features the eponymous girl from the celebrated fairy tale, pausing to stare out at the viewer, before entering her grandmother’s house, and encountering the big bad wolf. His fellow artist Walter Crane described Bateman’s later paintings as of ‘a magic world of romance and pictured poetry, a twilight world of dark mysterious woodlands, haunted streams, meads of deep green starred with burning flowers, veiled in a dim and mystic light.’2 The same can be said of this early work. At the left side a solitary bird sits alone on a perch apart from two others. Scattered around the lawn in the foreground are irises, marigolds and daisies, ever-present symbols of death.

by Devon Cox


Nigel Daly, The Lost Pre-Raphaelite: The Secret Life and Loves of Robert Bateman, London : Wilmington Square Books, 2014, pp. 190–91, figs 80, 81


  1. Garnett, 2000, c3 and c4, p. 291. Nigel Daly has asserted that the present watercolour was acquired by Graham for his nine-year-old daughter ‘Katherine Graham’, an erroneous reference to Graham’s daughter Frances. There is, however, no evidence to support the assertion that Graham had purchased the picture specifically for his daughter. See Daly, 2014, p. 190.

  2. Walter Crane, An Artist’s Reminiscences, London: Methuen & Co., 1907, p. 98.


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