Sunday, 19 October 2014



Heath Street, Hampstead.
FMB began three paintings in Hampstead in 1852. Work was the last to be finished in 1863 and only exhibited at FMB’s one person show in 1865.
The painting is said to represent work in all its forms.
The hole in the roadway may be work on the water supply or sewage system (historians disagree over this).
Originally instigated by FMB the painting’s conclusion was commissioned by T.E.Plint of Leeds who adds moral and religious dimensions to the composition.
Sketch of the Mount, Heath Street Hampstead. The Mount is to the left, Heath Street winds up the hill on the right. This is half way up Heath Street and near No.6, the gate of which is still in place.

The cast of characters.
“the British excavator…the outward and visible type of Work”
“ragged wretch who has never been taught to work”
“The rich who have no need to work” .. “the pastry cook’s tray the symbol of superfluity accompanies these”
Tract lady: “The Hodman’s Haven, or drink for thirsty souls.”
Gentleman and girl on horseback
“exceedingly ragged and dirty children” with their mongrel dog cuffed by their elder sister aged ten.
“Stunted pot boy” from the “Princess of Wales” with copy of the Times and crying out.
Distressed haymakers seeking work, Irish and other vagrants.
Orange seller moved on by the policeman
Sandwich board troupe
Soldier and his lady, some children playing and a poster-hanger.
Brainworkers: Thomas Carlyle and F.D. Maurice

Posters and notices
Boys Home, 41 Euston Road
The Working Men’s College
Police Bill, £50 reward
“Money, Money, Money”
Auction sale
Lecture Notice: “The Habits of Cats” by Professor Snoox
Vote for Bobus (Past and Present)
..ampstead Institute of Arts

Mr Plint and Mr Leathart
Mr Plint “inveigled here by Gabriel Rossetti”
Commissioned picture for 400 guineas on condition that two figures be added: a tract or bible distributor and a figure demonstrating the “head and heart of the work of the mind.”
“At night drew Maurice into the picture but drawn exactly from himself it looks rediculously stumpy & the head enormous. I must either falsify it or make the navvy’s head bigger… today out to see a photographer for Maurice…” 31 Jan 58
Carlyle was photographed May 59 and then drawn in
Plint died suddenly 1861 having only taken delivery of a drawing. He had paid all of the 400 gns in installments however. FMB had long spent it.
FMB concurrently painted a smaller copy for James Leathart

Writings of Thomas Carlyle and Frederick Denison Maurice.
Do the workers represent the dignity of manual labour? Ie radical political view
Do they represent the Protestant work ethic? Ie non-radical: the moral value of labour
Is the painting centred upon the water-supply and therefore presents a health and temperance message?
Deliberate contradiction and confusion?
“by turns solemn, mock-solemn, heroic, didactic, ironic and sentimental” [Trodd]
“In Work the wholesale subversion of visual unity is an aesthetic analogue to Brown’s sense of social disorganisation.” [Brooks]

Barringer Tim, (1999) Reading the Pre-Raphaelites, Yale University Press. Pp100-103
Parris L (1984, 94) Pre-Raphaelites, Tate, London
Prettejohn A (200) Art of the Pre-Raphaelites, Tate, London pp233-6 and Bibliography p297.

Wiki Work

VictorianWeb Resources [site]

Book: - Walker, J.A., 2006. Work: Ford Madox Brown’s Painting and Victorian Life. Francis Boutle Publishers, London.

On Mayhew and the Groundsell Man see


Barringer, T., 2012. Reading the Pre-raphaelites, 2nd Revised edition edition. ed. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.

Barringer, T., Rosenfeld, J., Smith, A., 2012. Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-garde. Tate Publishing, London.

Newall, C., Staley, A., 2004. Pre-Raphaelite Vision: Truth to Nature. Tate Publishing, New York, NY.

Rosenfeld, J., 2012. Pre-Raphaelites. Tate Publishing, New York, NY.

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