The Cause of the Poor

The Cause of the Poor, by William Strang R.A. (1859-1921). 1890. Source: Newbolt, Plate XIV. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Frank Newbolt describes this work as "a sermon in copper," adding that,

Like the Socialists, it shows a group of people without any physical charm, in all sorts of attitudes.... They are clever compositions, finely executed etchings, and original fancies, but they are not beautiful. They are not intended to be. They appeal to a different faculty. Mr. Strang pleases everybody with something out of his vast store, but he has probably never executed a plate with the definite object of gratifying the taste of those who only like his beautiful subjects. He endeavours, I think, to avoid the weakness, the feeble execution, and flabby sentiment of some of those who have tried to mirror beauty and beauty alone in landscape and figure. [17]

This etching brings to mind an illustration by the equally socially-concerned Luke Fildes. In Houseless and Hungry (1869), which was printed in the Graphic, he too shows a man in a top hat, evidently down on his luck, and a crippled child, this one leaning on a crutch. But, as in other cases in which Strang seems to hark back to earlier works, his own version is even bleaker. No parents hug their children close, and a pall of hopelessness hangs over them all.

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Image capture and text by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the source and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.


Newbolt, Frank. Etchings of William Strang, A.R.A.. London: G. Newnes / New York: Scribner's, [1907]. Internet Archive. Contributed by the University of California Libraries. Web. 9 March 2015.

Created 8 March 2015