Painting and Social History

Posted: January 31, 2021 in John Stammers Page

Here is a truly fascinating recent blog by jonathan5485 – my daily art display

In this article Jonathan investigates the paintings and cultural milieu of late 19thCentury England, in particular the art of Ralph Hedley.
It is, like all Jonathan’s posts, immersive and inquisitive, throwing open surprising avenues, and presenting surprising turns and artefacts.

Take this, for instance:

a widespread custom, up to the 19th century, known as the ‘barring-out’ of the schoolteacher by his pupils. On a certain day agreed by the school authorities, the pupils planned to bar the classroom door with the teacher outside and refused to let him in until he agreed to their terms, which were usually for a half-holiday, or something similar.  In Hedley’s painting we see schoolchildren enjoying the North-East custom of barring the teacher from the classroom on the 29th of May,  until the holidays for the next year had been agreed. One boy is wearing a Northumberland hat with a red pom-pom. Ralph Hedley has depicted the setting as a shabby country classroom in which children of many different ages are being taught together. The children’s clothing albeit shabby and multi-patched does not detract from the depiction of happy and healthy children.  However, although some of the children’s clothes are patched, they seem happy and healthy.

Ah yes, the happy and healthy children. Previous to this are two, ok sentimental, paintings of newsboys – neither can be older than seven or eight years old: ragged, exhausted.
This tendency in paintings also reminds of how the newly moneyed factory owners in their palatial homes in the country chose to furnish their walls with bucolic scenes of shepherds and country children.

In the Lords allowed themselves 
Bills of Regulation, bought with blood; 
a house in the country; sculpture,                       
yes, but paintings: English portraits,                   
Nazarene shepherds fat with health, 
children ruddy, without rickets,                          
and the girls demure yet buxom; 
rivers, vales, seashores;                                                                                   
 – mirrors of their assumption.

Every cloth a signature of snicks,                      
invisible watermarks of how man                        
is to man, interdependence between                    
need, require: their lady’s ’good works’,    
and the workable negotiation. 

They never read Theocritus, Homer,                               
nor followed Virgil, yet hatched                         
an Ovidian dialect                                              
with which to address their passing
into power.
(from Union Banner, something I was working on at one time)

Do pay this site a visit, it is always very informed, informative, and hugely stimulating.
In case you missed the link first time:

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