Magazine article Tate Etc.

Lynda Nead on Augustus Leopold Egg's Past and Present, No. 3 1858

Magazine article Tate Etc.

Lynda Nead on Augustus Leopold Egg's Past and Present, No. 3 1858

Article excerpt

A broken and discarded woven basket, useless and abandoned, apparently insignificant, just a piece of detritus washed up by the river, and yet it is at the heart of this painting. Placed centrally under the dark arch, it leads my eye towards the reflected light of the moon and the silvery track of water. Its dark interior points towards the left foreground of the picture and to the figure of a woman huddled by the wooden skeleton of a boat.

How strange that the basket is at the centre of the canvas and she is pushed to the margins. Her face is pale and gaunt; hollow cheeks, staring eyes; a Victorian woman, but one who is located outside all of the prevailing codes of respectable femininity. My gaze picks out details that begin to piece together her story and explain why she is in this situation. Small pale legs protrude from under her rough shawl, and posters on the wall behind her advertise the titles of Haymarket plays: Victims and A Cure for Love, as well as Pleasure Excursions to Paris. …

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