Two Strings to her BowJohn Pettie, 1887

John Pettie (1839-1893) was a Scottish painter, whose parents initially objected to his choice of career as an artist.  Pettie overcame their protests by presenting them with an example of his work, a portrait of the village carrier’s boy and donkey. Pettie’s parents were so impressed that they agreed for him to study art.

Pettie became a successful book illustrator in his early years, and later had his paintings accepted by the Royal Academy of Art. He spent most of his adult life in England, where the art world recognised him to be both a rapid and hard worker, and a very fine colourist and draughtsman. He derived much inspiration from the novels of Sir Walter Scott, producing many historical romantic-style paintings. “Two Strings to her Bow” is a good example of his witty illustrations. It appears to be from a series or perhaps a novel, as there are other associated images in existence, of the same figures in different configurations.


John Pettie [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wrap Up Your Painting

  • Is this painting depicting the era in which it was painted, or another era?
  • Did you think the person you chose to look at was isolated or interacting with the other people in the painting?
  • What event would you have liked to visit on this person?
  • How might it change the way the painter depicted the scene in your imagination?
  • How do you feel now you’ve completed this activity? If you enjoyed it, why not add more Look at Paintings audio guides to your week? And don’t forget, you can take these guides with you to your local gallery and try them whilst standing in front of ‘real life’ art

Wrap Up Your Painting

  • Did you think the two men were rivals in love?
  • Which man did you think was the most secure and confident in the young woman’s affections?
  • Did you think the young woman was serious about either of the young men?
  • Imagining this is a scene from a story, how did the story end?
  • Did this activity help you to slow down, take time out? If you enjoyed it, why not try more listening guides and make them a part of your week?