The Outcast by Richard Redgrave: a unique phenomenon or trend in English art?

Redgrave. Outcast

The other day I started reading “Dombey and Son” by Charles Dickens (1848).

And from the very first page I was amazed at how the main character was annoyed.

The hero had a daughter! And he sincerely described her as a counterfeit coin that could not be put into action.

For us, it sounds awful! But yes, that was how girls and women were perceived in English society at Victorian era.

And the artists were the first to feel it. They began to create paintings in which they eloquently showed the very vulnerable position of women in that society.

They began to realize that this was NOT normal. And they tried to convey this message to the audience.

I was simply shocked by Richard Redgrave’s “Outcast”. Even more than comparing a girl with a counterfeit coin.

So, the “counterfeit coin” could be thrown over the threshold overnight! This is exactly the situation that Redgrave showed.

Redgrave. Outcast
Richard Redgrave. Outcast. 1853. Royal Academy of Arts.

The father kicks his daughter out of the house. Because she dared to get pregnant and give birth out of wedlock.

The girl presses the baby to her chest. We see only his bonnet and a bare hand raised up. The girl herself is in light shoes. And beyond the threshold – snow, winter.

The sisters and brothers of the girl are in despair. But they cannot resist the will of their father.

I am only surprised by the reaction of the mother (I hope this is not a mother, but a servant).

In general, she is calm and does not even look in the direction of the unfortunate. Does she agree with her husband? Or is she afraid that she will be kicked out as well?

In general, the artists of England “shouted at the top of their voices”. The position of women in the Victorian era was very difficult.

If she got pregnant out of wedlock, she was simply thrown out into the street. Some could not stand it and threw themselves from bridges. Just such an unfortunate we see in the painting by George Watts “Found Drowned”.

George Watts. Founded Drowned. 1850. Watts Gallery, Compton. Wikimedia Commons.

And if the young woman did not do this, then a terrible fate awaited her: life with a baby under this very bridge. As in the painting by August Egg “Despair”.

August Egg "Despair"
August Egg. Despair. 1858. Tate Britain, London. Wikimedia Commons.

We see a young woman in the very left corner of the picture. She huddles away from the wind. And she hugs the baby to her chest. And how terrible it is that the bare legs of a child are not covered by anything.

Online course button

What will happen to them? Why didn’t they go to the rooming house?

Yes, because it is very difficult to get there. Line of children and old people. We see this in the painting by Luke Fields “Applicants for a place in a rooming house” (1874).

Luke Fields "Applicants for Admission to a Casual Ward"
Luke Fields. Applicants for Admission to a Casual Ward. 1874. Royal Holloway, University of London. Wikimedia Commons.

And the young woman with the baby has to go through the cold in the hope of finding shelter. The road is not visible. Most likely they won’t get anywhere.

The last hours or even minutes before death we see in the painting by Frederick Walker “The Lost Way”.

Frederick Walker "The Lost Way"
Frederick Walker. The Lost Way. 1863. Founding Museum, London.

These artists were the first to show the vulnerability of a woman. She was treated as a naive and powerless creature. They were cared, of course. But keeping in mind: counterfeit coin.

And only as long as it corresponded to existing morality. Step left, step right: and life turned into hell.

Thanks to the artists for being the first to show such moments! And they were not afraid to “talk” about it.

Which picture touched you the most?


If my style of presenting information is close to you and you are interested in studying art, I can send you a free series of lessons to your email. For this, please fill in a simple form at this link.

About the author

Go to home page

Online course “History of fine arts”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: