Wednesday, 15 December 2021

Wednesday 15th December - Work

 Blimey, we're half way through the month and there is only 10 days until Christmas day! Today's image is a classic but of all it's elements, the dogs are not looked at quite as much as they deserve...

Work (1852-1865) Ford Madox Brown

Obviously you recognise this, especially if you ever had the pleasure of doing Open University Course A102 where we were shown it endlessly.  That was the course that made me love the Pre-Raphaelites although that really wasn't the intention of a lot of the tutors I had who mainly loathed the colours and the pouty women.  This was back in the 1990s, when an awful lot of people thought the Pre-Raphaelites were only liked by the sort of people who bought their art from Woolworths. Well, I bought many a decent poster from Woolworths, so hurrah for the Pre-Raphaelites!

This is the chap who tends to get the most attention being the noble working chap, shovelling in a thoroughly heroic manner. I was never interested in him though, I prefer the group at the front...

From the first time I saw this painting, I've always wanted to know more about the girl in the dress that is much too big for her. It's almost falling off, bless her, and she is desperately trying to keep her siblings in check.  One description of the painting says the little boy is wearing a black armband, suggesting that they have lost a parent, probably their mother.  Are they therefore at the road site with their father who is one of the workers? Around her ankles is their little terrier, who is looking at a very posh Italian greyhound....

I have read descriptions that say that the terrier is threatening the greyhound but I don't get that at all, even though Brown himself said that the terrier hated the greyhound as he was just one of the 'minion of the aristocracy in jackets'. Right on, comrade. To me, the terrier just looks nosy, as terriers often are. The greyhound looks cringe-y  but honestly they always look a bit nervous so I'm not sure how you'd tell.  I wonder if it is meant to reflect that the little girl might look over at the posh lady who is walking down the side and wonder how her life might be different.  I also wondered if her oversized dress is a hint that she is assuming an adult role too early and is in danger of assuming other adult roles too early.

One dog that doesn't get a lot of notice is the bulldog puppy, asleep on the red cloth at the front. He is one of the workman's, hinting perhaps that you get born into the workman's life from a pup.  One of the boys playing around the site could be only a few years from working on the site, with their own children chasing around. I'm slightly more worried about the future of the little girls.  There is no future for them in the painting, unless they marry well (unlikely) like the woman on horseback or become saved like the temperance woman handing out leaflets at the top. Slightly more worryingly the girls could end up as the unemployed couples seen over the edge of the railing, resting on the side of the road. The children, like the little dogs, are left to fend for themselves in the somewhat rough, working-class world.  As the little girl who adopts her adult clothes along with her adult role, I think they will all manage superbly.

See you tomorrow.

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Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx