Social Paint

The Rich and the Poor; Studies of society in painting from the 17th to the 19th Centuries

26 February 2021 - 30 April 2021

The gulf between rich and poor throughout history has always been a wide and remorseless problem. While we see the vast chasms worldwide today more directly through the media, from the 17th to the 19th Centuries they were considered more directly national rather than international problems. Artists took to their specialist media (painting, drawing, engraving) to portray this social inequality whether it was for their own profit, for example in the portraiture of the patrician and middle classes (ie. the portrait by Bol in this exhibition) or for social commentary (ie. Hogarths series of prints or Adriaen can de Venne’s series of grisaille and brunaille paintings). Nowhere was this artistic trait represented better than in 17th Century Holland where the fascination with this disparity produced a creative explosion exploring social difference and in part driven by the up and coming middle classes who were rightly proud of their origins and new found wealth and status. Thereby they created a paradox – whilst enjoying and purchasing paintings of the poor they only emphasised the rift in living standards between themselves in their comfortable city lodgings and the terrible life of poverty inflicted on the peasant classes.

Selected works from the exhibition