Depicts Stereotypical Attitudes and Actions of All Classes
WORK! which beads the brow, and tans the flesh…
Ah me! For lack of it what ills in leash…
For want of work, the fiends soon inmesh!
Ah! beauteous tripping dame with bell-like skirts,
Intent on thy small scarlet-coated hound,
Are ragged wayside babes not lovesome too?
Untrained, their states reflects on thy deserts,
Or they grow noisome beggars to abound,
Or dreaded midnight robbers, breaking though.
(By Brown, included Bendiner, 156).
This sonnet by Ford Madox Brown accompanies and discusses the subjects in his
, a painting that explores the value of the work ethic in the laboring men.
Brown, a middle class emigrant that believed in the value of physical labor, therefore he would
have most likely appreciated the poor workers. Brown was an associate of a group of artists that
sought to emulate Italian art before Raphael, the aptly named Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (111).
Bendiner, an extensive source of Brown’s work, states that
was an oil on canvas painting
Brown painted between 1852 and 1865, and included a 5-page Catalogue and the sonnet
reproduced in part above (151). Barringer, author of The Pre-Raphaelite Reader
, claims that a
few years after Brown started
, Thomas Plint, a highly religious stockbroker, bought the
work and asked Brown to paint Thomas Carlyle, the social critic that wrote Past and Present
one subjects (101). The complex
depicts a busy street that is blocked, resulting in a crowd
of divergent classes and genders. The congestion in the road is caused by several workers who
are digging, yelling, or drinking in and around a deep trench meant for a sewage system. Most of
the seven workers focus only on their work or the other workers. In fact the central placement