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Anna Elizabeth Blunden, 1829–1915

The Song of the Shirt [2023, YCBA]

Former Title(s):

"For Only One Short Hour"

Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
18 1/2 × 15 1/2 inches (47 × 39.4 cm), Frame: 23 1/2 × 20 1/4 inches (59.7 × 51.4 cm)

Signed and dated in brown paint, lower left: "1854 | Anna Blunden"; and in red paint in lower left corner: "Anna E. Blunden 1854”

Inscribed on the back of the painting: “Miss E. Blunden | 26 City Road, Finsbury | For only one short hour | To feel as I used to feel | The Song of the Shirt”

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 | clouds | dawn | furniture | morning | portrait | prayer | rooftops | seamstress | sewing box | shirt | spool | steeple | thread | window | window sill | woman
Not on view
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]

Artist as narrator, nineteenth century narrative art in England and France. , Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, 2005, pp. 81, 133, no. 5, ND1452 G7 A77 2005 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Beth Harris, Famine and fashion : needlewomen in the nineteenth century, Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot, UK and Burlington, VT, 2005, pp. 27-29, fig. 8, HD6073 .C6 H37 2005 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Susan P. Casteras, A Struggle for Fame: Victorian women artists and authors, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, 1994, pp. 27, 50, pl. 4, N6796 C27 1994 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Frank Q. Christianson, Philanthropic discourse in Anglo-American literature, 1850-1920, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, Accessed January 22, 2023, pp. 169-70, fig. 7.4, ProQuest Ebook Central [ORBIS]

Cameron Dodworth, Illuminating the darkness : the naturalistic evolution of Gothicism in the nineteenth-century British novel and visual art [PhD Dissertation, University of Nebraska-Lincoln], Lincoln, NE, Accessed January 21, 2023, pp. 112-114, fig. 8, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global [ORBIS]

Teri J Edelstein, They sang 'The Song of the Shirt' : the visual iconography of the seamstress, Victorian Studies, vol. 23, Winter 1980, pp. 190-192, fig. 2, DA550 .V53 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Jan Marsh, Pre-Raphaelite women artists : Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, Manchester City Art Gallery, Manchester, 1997, pp. 63, 108, no. 5, N6767.5 .P7 M384 1997 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Helen Nina Taylor, 'Too individual an artist to be a mere echo' : female Pre-Raphaelite artists as independent professionals, British Art Journal, vol. 12, Winter 2011-2012, pp. 53-5, pl. 1, N6761 .B74 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Rosemary Treble, Victorian and post-Victorian paintings, Burlington Magazine, vol. 122, November 1980, pp. 785, 787, fig. 108, N1 .B87 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Patricia Zakinski, Representing female artistic labour, 1848-1890 : refining work for the middle-class woman, Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot, UK and Burlington, VT, 2006, pp. 27, 30, fig. 1.2, HD6136 .Z25 2006 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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