Work (1852-63) by Ford Madox Brown

Work - Ford Madox Brown - 1852 - 1863

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Artwork Information

ArtistFord Madox Brown
Date1852 - 1863
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions197.3 x 137 cm
Art MovementRomanticism
Current LocationManchester Art Gallery, Manchester, UK

About Work

The artwork entitled “Work” was crafted by Ford Madox Brown between 1852 and 1863. This oil on canvas measures 197.3 by 137 cm and is an allegorical painting, stylistically associated with the Romanticism movement. Presently, it is housed at the Manchester Art Gallery in Manchester, UK.

The artwork depicts a busy scene full of activity and characters, illustrating the social and physical aspects of labor. The central focus is a group of laborers engaged in digging and moving earth, likely for a road or construction project. Their muscular physiques and the strain on their faces emphasize the physicality of their work. Around them, a diverse array of individuals represents various strata of society and different attitudes towards work.

In the foreground, a woman carrying a child moves through the scene, and children play or assist in the work, underscoring themes of poverty, family, and the impact of labor on all ages. To the left, flower sellers, perhaps indicating the contrasting ways people earn a living. At the right, more affluent onlookers observe the manual labor, suggesting a class divide.

The artwork is vibrant with color and detail, and Brown uses light and shadow to highlight the central figures and their efforts. By encapsulating a wide spectrum of social dynamics in a single scene, Brown creates a complex commentary on the nature of work and its varied implications for different segments of Victorian society.

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