Victorian Literature and Culture
Pamela Fletcher, Bowdoin College

The Belatedness of Work: Ford Madox Brown and the Problem of Realism


When Ford Madox Brown first had the idea for his self-described “magnum opus” Work in 1852, it was a pioneering venture in the painting of modern life; by the time he finished it in 1863 and exhibited it in 1865, interest in this new type of subject matter had grown, flourished and then withered. In this talk, I read Work in the light of the history of the Victorian painting of modern life, arguing that in its very belatedness, it offers a meditation not only on the value and meaning of labor in the modern world, but also on the problem of realism itself.

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