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Anna Blunden, 1829–1915, British

"For Only One Short Hour"

Former Title(s):

The Song of the Shirt

Oil on canvas
18 1/2 × 15 1/2 inches (47 × 39.4 cm) and 23 1/2 × 20 1/4 inches (59.7 × 51.4 cm)

Signed and dated, lower left: "1854 | Anna Blunden"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
architecture | attic (interior space) | boxes (containers) | buildings | candle | chimney | city | cityscape | dawn | furniture | morning | portrait | prayer | rooftop | seamstress | sewing box | spool | thread | window | window sill | woman
On view in the galleries
IIIF Manifest:

Anna Blunden worked as a governess but quit to attend art school after reading the first volume of John Ruskin’s seminal Modern Painters (1843). She became a devotee of Ruskin, who was a trenchant critic of the new industrial capitalism and inspired Victorians as diverse as Cardinal Henry Edward Manning and Oscar Wilde. Blunden echoed Ruskin’s opinions about the dehumanizing effects of modern urbanism in this painting, which dramatizes the plight of workers who came to London seeking employment but found the pollution and poverty of the early Industrial Revolution. It was the first picture Blunden exhibited publicly at the Society of British Artists in 1854, where it was accompanied by a quotation from Thomas Hood’s poem “The Song of the Shirt” that gives voice to a “weary and worn” seamstress as she longs for her youth in the countryside: “For only one short hour / To feel as I used to feel, / Before I knew the woes of want, / And the walk that costs a meal!”

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

Art in Focus : Women at Yale (Yale Center for British Art, 2020-04-08 - 2020-08-30) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Artist as Narrator - Nineteenth Century Narrative Art in England and France (Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 2005-09-08 - 2005-12-04) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Pre-Raphaelite Women Artists (Southampton City Art Gallery, 1998-05-30 - 1998-08-02) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Pre-Raphaelite Women Artists (Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, 1998-03-07 - 1998-05-17) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

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