His Only Friend. Briton Riviere, RA (1840-1920). 1871. Oil on canvas. Measurements: 69.4 x 95.1 cm. Manchester Art Gallery. Accession number: 1937.124. Acquisition method: bequeathed by Jesse Haworth, 1937. Image available on the Art UK website for sharing and reuse on the CC BY-NC-ND (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives) licence [click to enlarge the image]. Commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee.

This painting is more natural and appealing than some pictures of poverty (for example, Thomas Kennington's Daily Bread). Riviere depicts a shoeless ragamuffin lying asleep on the grass sloping down to an unmade road, obviously completely exhausted. One elbow is touching a milestone as he holds his companion — a rather scrawny mutt — loosely to him. The milestone says that it is 31 miles to London, so the boy seems to making his way to the capital, no doubt in the hope of improving his fortune. But it is clearly a long, weary walk. Following a reference to Riviere's tendency to sentimentality, Simon Reynolds uses this work as an example of how he sometimes "achieved genuine pathos."


Reynolds, Simon. "Riviere, Briton (1840–1920), painter." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Web. 5 October 2018.

Created 5 October 2018