'Uncared for'... Plight of the Victorian poor auctions at Bonhams

Three paintings by Augustus Edwin Mulready (1844-1904) are to be sold at Bonhams' 19th Century Paintings auction, on September 29 in London.

The important works depict London street scenes inhabited by impoverished children, a theme typical of Mulready's work.

His paintings frequently highlighted the social issues of the Victorian era - particularly the poverty experienced by homeless street children, whom he often depicted gazing despairingly out at the viewer. 

Mulready returned again and again to the subject of London street scenes with despondent figures in an attempt to draw attention to their plight. 

A special feature of his paintings is the inclusion of street posters in the background, the text of which creates additional social and political context. 

Of all the artists who engaged with the field of social realist genre painting in the 19th century, Mulready's paintings are the most emotionally direct.

Uncared For (estimated at £10,000-15,000), is the largest of
the works on offer. A pale, waif-like girl stares miserably out
at the viewer, whilst next to her a young boy desolately buries
his head in his hands. They contrast powerfully with the wealthy
Victorians in the background - and above their heads is a torn
street poster ironically proclaiming 'The Triumph of Christianity'

The slightly harder edge of his works, with an undercurrent of social commentary, separates them from the majority of Victorian genre scenes which often focussed purely on joyful elements of childhood.

The narrative element to his work, and its applicability to contemporary social issues, are particularly evident in the works for sale in this auction.

His Dickensian-themed paintings formed their own genre; charged with a socially reflective moods and personal circumstance, all underpinned by a rigorous technique.

"This is a fascinating group of pictures, and it is particularly poignant to be selling them at a time when the plight of the urban poor is so much in the public eye," said Charles O'Brien, Head of Bonhams 19th Century Paintings Department.

Watch this space for more news on the sale.


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