Get under the skin of a Victorian genre painting ART FOR WRITERS
There is almost a ready-made story here. Nameless and Friendless is the most famous work of Emily Mary Osborn. She specialised in painting women in distress which has made critics describe her as a “proto-feminist artist”.
This woman on hard times is a widow attempting to make a living as an artist. While offering a picture to a disdainful dealer, she is being ogled by two “swells” something which is probably a daily occurance.
From the little I know of Osborn’s life and from Germaine Greer’s book on women artists The Obstacle Race I imagine she knew a lot about the struggle to be recognised as an artist (and not ‘just’ as a woman artist).
What did this nameless woman do in the morning before she came to the dealers and where is she going afterwards? What’s the weather like? Is her cloak warm enough? And what is her name? What did her husband call her? Her best friend?
The date is 1857 so there’s no free education for her son which might explain why he is with her. He looks more confident than his mother.