Cecil Gordon Lawson is a little-known painter who belonged to a little-known Victorian group – the Idyllists. His only slightly more famous colleagues were Fred Walker, George Heming Mason, Matthew Ridley Corbett, George Pinwell and John William North. They deserve to be more familiar to us, for they painted some of the most attractive landscapes of the later nineteenth century: pastoral scenes imbued with a gentle melancholy, as though the artists were all too well aware that the beauty of unspoilt pre-industrial England were about to be swept irretrievably away.

Their pictures tend to be modest in size and scope, and Lawson was unusual among them in choosing to paint on a rather large scale. This canvas has a modest enough subject: hop-gardens in north Kent with scattered oast-houses, their vanes gleaming in the sunshine. But the artist’s intention was to present us with something more than just a local view. Lawson tells us that it shows a valley near Wrotham, under the North Downs between Sevenoaks and Maidstone, in what the tourist copywriters delight in calling ‘the Garden of England’.