, by William Strang R.A. (1859-1921). 1891. Etching and drypoint on paper. Source: Newbolt, Plate XVII. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
The elegant classical background here is Gloucester Gate, at Regent's Park, London, which still looks much the same today. Strang's sympathy is clear from the fact that he himself is present here, in the centre of the detail shown alongside, wearing a cloth cap which aligns him with the workers rather than the masters. This was just the time when socialism was on the rise, in response to a period of depression and hardship among the working classes, and the social conscience of better-off people like Strang himself:
The Socialists, and other urban realist subjects of around this date, reflect Strang's personal interest in contemporary social issues. As well as being a member of the Arts and Crafts Movement, he became Master of the Art Workers Guild, a co-operative committed to bringing about economic and social improvement through traditional workmanship and apprenticeships. ["Socialists"]
The scene is full of interest, with both sides of the class divide represented. Behind the tree is someone giving alms, and, just beside the speaker, an elderly man places a paternalistic hand on the back of another who is bending down to retrieve something (not, perhaps, the papers?). It is hard to say what exactly is happening, but tempting to try, and also tempting to try to identify the speaker (the activist Edward Carpenter comes to mind, though the likeness is not strong) and some of the listeners – the woman shown in profile, and the men in the top hats. There is such an air of reality about the gathering.
Image capture and text by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the source and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.
Newbolt, Frank. Etchings of William Strang, A.R.A.. London: G. Newnes / New York: Scribner's, . Internet Archive. Contributed by the University of California Libraries. Web. 10 March 2015.
"Socialists." National Galleries of Scotland. Web. 10 March 2015.
Created 10 March 2015