One Dead. Artist: Matthew James Lawless. Engraver: W. Barker, 1863. Wood-engraving, 4 x 5 inches. The Churchman’s Family Magazine (July–Dec 1863): facing 275.

This powerful design is typical of the death-bed scenes appearing throughout Victorian painting and illustration. Lawless, who died at the age of 27, was a major artist working in the style of poetic realism known as ‘The Sixties’, and this illustration exemplifies his emphasis on passionate feeling, symbolic detail, and close observation. He has a keen eye for the small details of domestic life, combining drama with the everyday realities of an opened window (which is both real and symbolic, the sign of the soul’s release), the pattern on the bed-covering, and the opened book lying face down on the bed (another emblem of life that is brought to an unexpected end).

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Victorian Web Visual arts Victorian Book Illustration

Last modified 21 January 2013