NSW Art Gallery Visit

For my 19th Century Literature class, our Professor, Michael Griffith, took  us of a tour of The Art Gallery of NSW to look at art in the 19th Century. It is interesting to see how the art of the period reflects the literature, or visa versa. In fact it seems all of the arts are in cahoots with each other, because if we look at the music of the period, we can see the temperament reflected in the melodies written at the time as well.

“Edward Elgar and Charles Villiers Stanford as quintessential English composers of the Victorian era, (Think ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ although Elgar wasn’t responsible for someone else putting words to his “Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1”.) If you want “dark” and weighty, go for Elgar’s Symphony no. 2 – a superb work that doesn’t get heard enough. For “Romanticism” I’d suggest Brahms or Dvorak, any works. Or Smetana’s ‘Moldau'” from Richard Peter Maddox, Emeritus Professor of Music, UNE.

(Richard)Peter and I are good friends and we often discuss music through the ages.

Describe the impact on you of ONE of the paintings viewed on our tour- talk about how it has opened up your understanding of the key issues in the period we are studying!

The painting that had the most impact on my, and with which I could relate both ‘Hard Times’ by Dickens and ‘Silas Marner’ by Elliot, was ‘The Widower’ by Sir Samuel Luke Fildes.

Fildes grew up an orphan and was adopted by his grandmother who was a social reformer of the time. After Art school, he shared the concerns of his grandmother and went to work for the Graphic magazine. It was while there that Dickens saw Fildes work and was so impressed that Fildes actually went on to be illustrator for the Charles Dickens book ‘Mystery of Edwin Drood’.

Fildes had a real connection to the working class people of this era. He liked to paint the working class people of his time as a way to highlighting the problems in his world.

‘The Widower’ connected me with Silas Marner in the way that here is a single man, advanced in age, trying his best to care for children. Silas Marner also cared for “his daughter” as well as he could. The Girl in Silas had also been left motherless.

silas marner


Motherless looks to be a template for the widower, with the same man and child in both pictures.

I am only part way through ‘Hard Times’ and while I can see elements of Hard Times in the painting, especially where Stephen Blackpool and his beloved Rachael are caring for Stephen’s poor wife.

Stephen Blackpool and Rachael

Fildes became a very well known and wealthy artist, painting portraits of Society’s finest including Royalty from England and Europe. He was knighted for his work in 1906, but never forgot the working class.When commissioned by the Tate gallery in 1890 to paint a picture, he recalled  the death of his first son to tuberculosis in 1877 and painted ‘The Doctor’ as a response to his grief.

The Doctor

Fildes died in 1918.


Many thanks to artmagick


and Google images for the pictures.



Filed under 19th Century Literature, art, literature

2 responses to “NSW Art Gallery Visit

  1. No stone unturned! What a wonderful summary of all that touched you in our art gallery visit. So far, I have to say, your blog is right at the top of the pile Dave! Very talented work!

  2. What a great insight Dave, although I have already completed this 19th century unit I found a lot of things which were still interesting to me even now. Your particular knowledge of the paintings which you discussed had me immediately intrigued as I often have been known to see these days as apart of what we learn. But your connection to the works of Dickens and Fildes’ paintings had me interested to say the least, you brought out a connection which is hard to see without some background knowledge but even further bring out what you believed of the time. Thanks for that interesting turn when I was just scrolling through the list, but you made me pause which is not an easy thing to do!!

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