Street Singer and Child

Street Singer and Child

18th century

John Opie

(British, 1761-1807)

Oil on canvas

Framed: 100 x 87.5 x 11 cm (39 3/8 x 34 7/16 x 4 5/16 in.); Unframed: 76.5 x 64.3 cm (30 1/8 x 25 5/16 in.)

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Wade 1916.1030

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Description

The son of a Cornish coal miner, John Opie sympathized with the British working classes. This painting demonstrates his interest in an honest portrayal of British street life, a sympathy rarely seen in the work of other British artists of his generation, who often presented lower classes more coldly. Much of Britain's population at this time was poor, but beggars and street vendors had a particularly low status. Street singers were often sellers of goods. By focusing the composition tightly on the woman and not including any wares, Opie makes the viewer recognize her humanity; moreover, he emphasizes the connection between mother and child. The singer is working to feed her baby, evoking sympathy from the viewer.

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