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Title: The furrowed face : the depiction of the elderly in painting, England and the United States, 1870-1910
Author: Thompson, Mary E.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7430 8278
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2017
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Old age has always evoked diametrically opposed opinions. On the one hand, the elderly are respected, regarded as benevolent repositories of wisdom and comfort; on the other, they are considered as decrepit vestiges of life, who pointlessly linger on, wasting the world for the vibrant and useful. These views were particularly topical in the last decades of the nineteenth/first decade of the twentieth centuries, when there was increasing concern in many countries about the aged and their vulnerability. In England and Wales this resulted in the 1908 provision by the government of an old age pension. In the United States, however, provision of support from the state was introduced significantly later, in the 1930s. How, if at all, was this variation in view reflected in the painting of the elderly in the two countries? This study addresses this question by firstly considering how the elderly are portrayed in genre painting in each country. It then moves on to the world of portraits, looking in more detail at the work of individual artists, both American and English, including Thomas Eakins, John Singer Sargent and Hubert Herkomer. In England it emerged that the elderly were often shown as happy if shabby, with a more submissive attitude to fate; there was also a significant segment of painting which recorded the poverty and difficulties which may face the old. In contrast, in the United States the elderly were shown as vibrant, assertive and materially better off, with few indications of the troubles they may undergo. In both countries, however, it became clear that the elderly were regarded in a positive way by artists, who delighted in the excellent practice of artistic skills provided by the time-ravaged faces and features of the old.
Supervisor: Payne, Christiana ; Craske, Matthew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: History of Art