In a humble domestic setting a family gathers around the warmth of the hearth as the blind fiddler, who is presumably a welcome guest, plays his music. He is peripherally located in the shadows, encouraging the viewer to focus on the family. This scene of everyday life contains an immense variety of expression and subtle activity; the family is united compositionally, but each member experiences the moment privately. A sense of movement pervades the scene and enlivens the otherwise muted canvas.
This painting in various ways conforms to the very conventions the PRB set out to abandon, such as the pyramidal composition, the direct light source and the sense of depth. although numerous objects are positioned fairly prominently in the foreground, they do not appear to hold any sort of symbolic significance.
1. Is there any evidence in this painting that Wilkie was an astute observer of nature? Would the PRB have admired his ability at handling facial expressions?
2. In this painting does Wilkie challenge the traditions of the old masters and the genre paintings?
3. Is this merely a snapshot of family life, or are there deeper social/political messages which the artist wishes to convey?
4. How are the main elements of the story conveyed in this scene? Would it be more effective had Wilkie chosen to use more direct object symbolism?
Last modified 10 September 2006