Museums Home BMAGiC Home Search Browse BMAGiC Help About BMAGiC Contact Us

Oil Painting - Work

View main imageView larger image
Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

There are no additional images for this object.

Basic Information

Accession Number:1927P349
Collection:Fine Art Paintings and Sculpture
Date:1863 - 1863

Maker Information

Artist:Ford Madox Brown - View biography for Ford Madox Brown


The subject, of work in all its forms, was inspired by Brown seeing navvies at work laying drains. Each character or group is of symbolic significance, from the navvies representing physical work to the gentleman and his daughter on horseback who are rich enough not to have to work. The young lady giving out religious tracts is doing 'God's work', while the itinerant farm workers fall asleep under the trees are destitute for the want of work.The two gentlemen on the right were described by the artist as the 'brainworkers' who seem to be idle, but they are the source of social reform and prosperity. The potboy with his beer tray carries a copy of 'The Times' under his arm. Literacy was seen as the key to social improvement and political power for the working class. The Masonic symbols of trowel and set-square in the foreground represent another means of advancement for tradesmen.

Bequeathed by James Richardson Holliday, 1927.

Further Information

Production Period:19th century
Medium:Oil on canvas.

Associated People


Height:684 mm
Width:990 mm

Related Objects