Art Wednesday

So much of the art that I have shared with you on Art Wednesday has been beautiful, often scenes of family, children playing, gorgeous dresses - a wonderful imagine of Victorian life.  However, it was probably a very romantic view that most people did not enjoy and it certainly didn't show the poverty or sadness that was affecting some many families.  Today's art collection is different.  These paintings show sadness, the reality of life . . . where a painting has captured a scene, that perhaps a camera would today.  They are still masterpieces but reveal the truth of events of the times. 

"The Last of England", 1855 by Ford Madox Brown
In the 1850's my own family set off from German to Australia - never to return.  I wonder what they thought as they sat on board, did they know what Australia was like and how much sadness did they feel knowing they would never return to their homeland. The painting above shows a young family, notice the mother has hidden under her coat a child, she is holding their hand.  What were they thinking as they got ready to sail to Australia.  It is the portrait of the painters friend who was really on his way to Australia with his wife and child.  Does the wife feel regret and sadness for leaving England, does she trust her husband for making this decision.  It really is a touching painting. 
"The Bush Burial", 1890 by Fredrick McCubbin
So many children died in the early days of Australian settlement and McCubbin painted several canvas's of parents at the grave site of their child.  As a mother I can feel the sadness and lost of this family. 
by Josef Israel (Dutch painter of the late 19th century)
Israel was known for his bleak paintings of reality of the day - the sobering face of the poor - suffering from the toils of life, he captures the emotions and sadness.   He didn't try to hide the truth of what was going on around him.
"The Order of Release, 1746" by Sir John Everett Millais
This painting tells the story of the Highlander, wounded in the 1745 Jacobite rebellion and unexpectedly delivered from prison, his wife having brought an order for his release.  You can't help but feel the relief but pain felt by the Highlander as he is returned to his wife and child.  Whilst he looks weary and weak, the wife is portrayed as strong and determined.  It appears that she has fought to win her husbands release and that strength is written on her face.  Note that the child is holding a yellow flower, some petals have fallen to the ground, maybe the baby has been a long wait.
"The Poppies of Flanders Field" by Willy Werner - this is a modern day interpretation of a tragic part of our modern day history.  Many war paintings prior to the 20th century showed glorious battles.  Painters of the 20th and 21st century painted the rawness and tragedy of war, its loss rather than the glory.  They couldn't hid the truth any more, with the invention of the camera, the truth was always going to be told as can be seen in the photo below.  This is the horror of war.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

by John McCrae

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  1. Jo,

    I am glad that you shared these realistic paitings with us. Sometimes, it's good to see the "other side" of things. Life is not always cheery and kind. Sometimes, life can bring sadness and sorrrow, and these things should not be hidden from us.


    -Lady Rose

    P.S. I enjoyed viewing these paintings.

  2. are going to be my child's art teacher and I love gleaning from you also...this is just wonderful...thanks for taking the time to share, what an awesome gift you have...thanks!!!

  3. Thanks Jo. So many of the paintings you show are *pretty* but lack the gritty strength of these.

  4. Thanks Jo, for posting these. They are very interesting and emotive.

    Enjoyed learning about the different artists.

  5. This is very different Jo... They show a lot of emotion... It makes me wonder what the artists felt as they painted them - and what made them WANT to paint such an unhappy subject? Most people would rather photograph or paint happy scenes because they evoke good feelings... Does painting this kind of thing make the artist feel better to create it as a painting (much like writing about things can make a person feel release)? Or did they paint these things simply to raise awareness amongst those they would show the artwork to? Or why?
    It's interesting, isn't it?

  6. Clara - I think someone like Josef Israel wanted to paint the realities of life to get the message out that the situation was bad for the poor. He was painting at the turning point in society when people began to think about what was going on around the. Painters like him were giving a message, perhaps to the politicians.

    I am sure the artists got caught up in the emotions of their works, however I once heard a modern day singer/song writer (Sting) talk about a song he had written about his wife (Fields of Gold) and he said that when he sings it he doesn't feel any emotion, because if he did he wouldn't be able to sing the words and he would be in tears. Perhaps artists are the same - they step back from their work and it is for us, the view, to feel the emotions.

  7. Jo, this a very interesting post. Having Irish, Scottish and German ancestors who sailed out here in the mid 1800s, I feel sorry for the sometimes tragic events they endured to give us the lifestyles we enjoy now. Many sadnesses amidst the joy of starting out in a new country. It's good to remember their sacrifices! They forged the Aussie spirit! blessings..Trish

  8. Very good commentary with such great artwork to share. Photography truly did change the art world. Thank you for pointing out the hidden baby, I was trying to figure that out.

    The way the little girl at the grave is covering her face is so moving...just want to scoop her up and hold her.

  9. So moving! It is good to see these pieces of art, because it joins you to the human race and the common core of suffering that we all endure just by virtue of the Fall. I really enjoyed this post, in a melancholy sort of way.


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