Thursday, July 9, 2020

Images of 19th-Century Evictions

With bans on evictions expiring in many states, the sad truth is that a great many renters will be forced out of their lodgings. Let's see how artists portrayed evictions in centuries past.
Blandford Fletcher, "Evicted" (1887)

William Teulon Blandford Fletcher (British, 1858-1936) focuses on the powerlessness of the widowed mother. The child clutches an umbrella, as rain will surely come, and she drags a toy horse that has fallen on its side. Villagers look on sympathetically.

"The Sale of Old Dobbin" by John Robertson Reid (1851-1926), 123 x 187cm.

According to BBC: "This picture tells the story of an event that happened in 1874 when a farmer worker, William Bromley, was evicted from his farm at Yalding in Kent and forced to sell off all his belongings, including his faithful old horse Dobbin. William Bromley is seated front left and the young girl next to him, weeping quietly in a handkerchief, is his eldest daughter Emma, who was ten at the time. A few months later the family emigrated to New Zealand." 

Art historians believed this was a fictional image until a descendant saw the painting in a museum and recognized his great-great grandfather and his story.

Erik Henningsen (Danish, 1855-1930) painted “Foreclosure” in 1892. The plight of the family is heightened by the snowy weather. The father is powerless to negotiate with the constable, who reads from the law book. 

There are many photographs of Irish evictions, as many families were forcibly removed from their farms in the decades after the Famine; this one is in County Kerry. See photos and stories of the Irish resistance and the practices of British landlords at this blog post.

In 1844, Adolph Menzel documented a pile of household contents from someone moving out of a cellar. Chairs are stacked at right and a woman sits on the pile at left. I'm not sure if they were evicted or just moving, but the stuff seems piled hastily. 
Read and see more online:
Post-Famine Eviction Photographs (Ireland)


Bevan said...

Getting evicted when everything is out of your control seems to be such a demoralizing thing. I have seen it happen a couple of times even after my best efforts to help others avoid it, and it breaks my heart.

Virginia Fhinn said...

I note the onlookers in all the paintings, the element of shame is a strong theme.