British artist Mark Lancelot Symons (1887–1935) was something of an anamoly. His work is highly accomplished but resoundingly original, though certainly not without precedent (one can see the influence of earlier Symbolist painters such as Leon Frederic). Yet Symons never felt that art was his true calling, only beginning to paint heavily and present his work publicly late in life, and then mostly at the behest of his wife.
A lifelong Catholic, Symons considered being a minister (unordained–he was able to marry and have children) his raison d’être. As a result of his deep religious faith, his paintings are often thematically Christian, either overtly or more subtly; however, he invited massive controversy among his fellow believers in his native country by placing some of the Biblical scene paintings in “worldly” contemporary settings. Of course, despite the apparently easily offended Edwardian Brit sensibility, no one seems to have raised any objections to Symons using nude children in his work (not unlike Frederic, in fact). Ah, how different things are today. Can you imagine a Catholic priest offering paintings of nude children to the public in 2014?
Jorinda and Jorindal (or Jorinde and Joringel) is an odd choice for a tableau painting. Paintings based on Grimm’s fairy tales certainly aren’t unheard of, but this is pretty obscure as far as they go, and not really one of their better ones. The story concerns a pair of youths who are in love. When the girl is captured by a witch–transformed into a nightingale and imprisoned in a birdcage–the young man dreams of the means to break the witch’s spell and free his beloved. Pretty much your standard damsel-in-distress tale, in other words. The decision by Symons to present the characters as modern children is an interesting one. Place this piece in context of the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, of whom Symons was a follower.
Again, notice the Pre-Raphaelite influence here, particularly Millais and Burne-Jones.