This is part 2 of my exploration of Domestic and Genre painting during the Victorian age . I will be concentrating on William Powell Frith , Augustus Egg and Emily Osborn a female artist , very rare during the Victorian period.
Dave Bindman gives an introduction to Frith in his Encyclopaedia of British Art.
” William Powell Frith (1819-1909) achieved success as a genre painter. He began in the 1840’s with scenes from humorous classics then gradually turned to more recent literature”. .
” In 1854 he moved to a direct and panoramic portrayal of modern life with ‘life at the seaside’. he had few pretensions to greatness though he took his role as a chronicler of Modern Life seriously”. .
Julian Trueherz compares Frith to the great Scottish realist painter David Wilkie who also painted realist genre scenes of working class households.
” Domestic Genre rustic subjects in the Wilkie tradition and literary and historical anecdotes continued to flourish in Mid-Victorian Britain”. .
” From the early 50’s a new element entered the narrative and genre painting and many of the same artists who produced historical subjects began to paint the contemporary Middle class milieu with a naïve delight in the up-to-date omnibuses and Railway stations ,opera boxes and parlour maids”. .
Truherz explores Frith’s picture ‘Life at the seaside’.
” Life at the seaside showing the crowds on the sands at Ramsgate. 4 years later Frith exhibited the ‘Derby day’ with its throng of race goers at Epsom. each painting was large , shaped like a panorama and packed with figures”. .
” Behind these views (CF with History Paintings) lay the prejudice inherited from Reynolds that art had to be elevated and generalised and not deal in the everyday yet as Frith knew it was the very contemporary of his subjects which ensured their popularity”..
Trueherz compares Frith’s pictures with Charles Dickens Novels which is an interesting thought.
“ Frith’s pictures for all their novelettish concentration on surface rather than inner moral complexities have something of the richness of Dickens’s novels with their interweaving of plot and sub-plot”. .
” Frith’s success led to a rash of similar paintings at the Academy on ever more ingenious variations of the crows scenes such as ‘Dividend day at the Bank of England and ‘the General Post Office at one minute to six'”. .
David Bindman in his Encyclopaedia of art introduces us to Augustus Egg another Victorian artist who depicted in his Past and Present how a respectable middle class woman commits adultery and finds herself and her child ejected from the Family home parted from her two children and left to starve on the streets.
” Augustus Egg (1816-63) began as a painter of historical genre scenes . a friend of Frith and Dadd with them in 1838 established the CLIQUE , later he was influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and produced timely staged scenes of Family life”. .
Julian Treuherz explores the story of Past and present.
” The greatest of the several paintings of Augustus Egg’s trilogy ‘Past and Present’ telling the story of a well-to do family broken by the wife’s adultery, the children reduced to poverty and the Mother thrown out onto the streets with her illegitimate child” ..
” Many Women artists worked during the Victorian period but it was more difficult for them to make a career in art than their male counterparts”. .
” Women artists often spoke of the difficulties in combining a career with married Life and some like Emily Osborn ( 1834-1913) never married. Osborn had a long and successful career but she was one of the exceptions”. .
Treuherz explores the most famous painting of Osborn’s Nameless and Friendless .
” Osborn’s ‘Nameless and Friendless’ shows the difficulties met by Woman artists. Women could exhibit at the academy but were excluded from membership”. .
In Gender and art Class and sexuality Linda Read attempts to explore the role of sexuality in Victorian England.
” In her study of Victorian women artists Deborah Cherry explores the significance of the pressure on Professional Women artists to conform to the middle class ideal of Feminity”. .
” During the 19th Century new categories of Art were added to the academic hierarchy of subject matter , others were beginning to argue that the culture and morality of the nation were most appropriately and distinctly expressed through a new category called Genre -small scale narrative painting depicting incidents drawn from contemporary life”. .
This concludes Part 2 of my exploration into aspects of Victorian Genre painting. In Part 3 I will conclude my investigation.
- ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF BRITISH ART: DAVID BINDMAN. PG.91
- VICTORIAN PAINTING:JULIAN TRUEHERZ.PG.105
- ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF BRITISH ART. DAVID BINDMAN:PG.79
- VICTORIAN PAINTING.JULIAN TRUEHERZ: PG.112
- GENDER AND ART: CLASS AND SEXUALITY IN VICTORIAN ART.OPEN UNIVERSITY:LINDA READ. PG.158