Milan, 12 March 2019
The industrial revolution could only take off because the rural poor were chased off the land, herded into towns, and put to work in the burgeoning factories. These foot soldiers of the industrial revolution were immediately of interest to painters, who caught on right away to the military, drill-like quality of the work for many.
(date unknown) by Emily Hodgetts (active 1820-50). Photo credit: Dudley Museums Service The Richardson Cutting Shop
(1917) by Edward Frederick Skinner (1865-1924). Photo credit: Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library File Cutters
(1917) by Charles Ginner (1878-1952), © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Government Art Collection The Blouse Factory
(1918) by Edgar Seligman (1867-1958), © the artist’s estate. Photo credit: IWM (Imperial War Museums) Women at Work: The Belgian Steel Factory, Goldhawk Road, W12
by John Lavery (1856-1941). Photo credit: IWM (Imperial War Museums) Elswick, 1917: Messrs. Armstrong, Whitworth & Company
(1929) by James McIntosh Patrick (1907-1998), The Weaving Shed, Old Glamis Factory © the artist’s estate / Bridgeman Images. Photo credit: Dundee Art Galleries and Museums Collection (Dundee City Council)
(1946) by John Campbell Hutton (1906-1978), © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Museum of Farnham Women Making Munitions Boxes
(1947) by Robert Johnston (active 1947-1985), © the copyright holder. Photo credit: British Motor Industry Heritage Trust Body Shop, Austin, Longbridge, Warwickshire
It is striking indeed that most of these pictures have women workers, but this might be more a reflection of the fact that many of the pictures were painted during the two World Wars, when women were drafted into the workplace to replace the men; when the wars were over they were expected to go home. (It is also striking that in the pictures in yesterday’s post, which were all from “heavy industries”, there were NO women.)
The harsh working conditions, the tendency of the factory owners to pay their workers as little as possible, the lack of job security, all led to worker agitation and the creation of the Trades Union movement as well as of left-wing political parties. Artists captured these political trends early.
[in 1838] by Harry Rutherford (1903-1985), © the artist’s estate. Photo credit: Tameside Museums and Galleries Service: The Astley Cheetham Art Collection The Opening of the Chartists’ Meeting House, Hyde
(1921) by an unknown artist. Photo credit: People’s History Museum National Builders Labourers And Construction Workers Society Banner
(1871) by an unknown artist. Photo credit: People’s History Museum The Sunderland Employers Banner
In later decades, some artists were perhaps not so sympathetic to the workers’ movement.
(c. 1932) by Evan Walters (1893-1951), © the artist’s estate. Photo credit: Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales The Communist, a Political Meaning
(1975) by Harold Blackburn (1899-1980), © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Kirklees Museums and Galleries Union Men
Others were decidedly more sympathetic.
(1937) by Clive Branson (1907-1944). Photo credit: Tate. Distributed under a Selling the ‘Daily Worker’ outside Projectile Engineering Works CC BY-NC-ND licence
(1975) by Maureen Scott (b. 1940), © the artist. Photo credit: People’s History Museum The History of Labour
(1986) by Ken Currie (b. 1960), © the artist/courtesy Flowers Gallery, London and New York. Photo credit: North Lanarkshire Council / CultureNL Two Trade Unionists
(1983-85) by Ken Currie (b. 1960), © the artist/courtesy Flowers Gallery, London and New York. Photo credit: Glasgow Caledonian University Glasgow Communist Party Committee Banner
(1993) by Michael Patrick Jones (b. 1944), © the artist. Photo credit: Museum of Liverpool Unemployment on Merseyside: Campaigning for the Right to Work
While all this was happening, a number of artists went about using the new art forms of 20th Century art to depict the real nature of work.
(1910) by Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962), © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019. Photo credit: Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales The Weaver
(1940s) by William Patrick Roberts (1895-1980), © estate of John David Roberts. By courtesy of The William Roberts Society. Photo credit: Salford Museum & Art Gallery Munitions Factory
(date unknown) by Cliff Rowe (1904-1989), © the artist’s estate. Photo credit: People’s History Museum Female Glass Worker
(1963) by Leroy Leveson Laurent Joseph de Maistre (1894-1968), © the artist’s estate. Photo credit: Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Machine Shop
(1970s) by Tony Evans (1920-2001), © the artist’s estate. Photo credit: Carmarthenshire Museums Service Collection The Machinist
(1979) by Francis Higgins, © the copyright holder. Photo credit: University of Dundee, Duncan of Jordanstone College Collection Workers in a Frozen Pea Factory
Artists were also interested in capturing the flow of workers into and out of the factories, at the beginning and end of their day or their shift. Miners’ shift changes got pride of place.
(1928) by Richard Schmick, © the copyright holder. Photo credit: National Coal Mining Museum for England Miners Return from Night Shift
(1931) by an unknown artist. Photo credit: Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales Miners Returning from Work
(date unknown) by Roger Hampson (1925-1996), © the artist’s estate. Photo credit: Salford Museum & Art Gallery Bedford Colliery, Leigh
(1964) by Tom McGuinness, © the artist’s estate. Photo credit: National Coal Mining Museum for England The Crossing (Colliery at Night)
(c. 1990) by Norman Stansfield Cornish (1919-2014), © Northumbria University Gallery on behalf of the artist’s estate. Photo credit: Northumbria University Gallery Pit Road near a Colliery, Winter
(date unknown) by Brian Maunders (b. 1942), © the copyright holder. Photo credit: National Coal Mining Museum for England Back and Forth
But pictures were painted of other factory workers too, catching them when they came out
(1930) by Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887-1976), © The Lowry Collection, Salford. Photo credit: The Lowry Collection, Salford Coming from the Mill
(1947) by David Ghilchik (1890-1970), © the artist’s estate. Photo credit: Chesterfield Museum & Art Gallery End of the Day
(1954) by Carel Victor Morlais Weight (1908-1997), Men Leaving Work © the artist’s estate / Bridgeman Images. Photo credit: Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery
or went in.
(1925) by Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887-1976), © the estate of L. S. Lowry. All rights reserved, DACS 2019. Photo credit: Pallant House Gallery Going to the Mill
(date unknown) by Käthe Strenitz (1923-2017), © the artist’s estate. Photo credit: Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre Entrance to a Factory near the Canal Entrance
Paintings of workers’ lives in their local community outside the factory gates will be the topic of the next post.
All photos taken from the
Art UK website