Godspeed! Pilgrims setting out for Canterbury, 1874

George Henry Boughton (1833-1904)

  • Oil on Canvas, 122 x 184 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

This life-size canvas shows an episode from the Canterbury Tales, in which two pilgrims – who can be recognised from their travelling bags, hats and staves – are having their pilgrim’s flasks filled with water. The painting drew a great deal of attention at the Royal Academy annual exhibition held in London in 1874, at which Vincent van Gogh also saw the work. In various letters to Theo Van Gogh he expressed his admiration for Boughton; as a novice artist he studied and copied Boughton’s religious motifs. In 1876, while working as an assistant minister in England, he even described a similar work by the painter in a sermon in which he described life as a pilgrimage towards God.

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