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The Song of the Shirt, (painting)

Artist:
Mayer, Constant b. 1831
Type:
Paintings
Exhibition Catalogs
Date:
1876
Notes:
Appears in exhibition catalog as entry no. 397 (Sale info: $4000.00).
"Constant Meyer has just finished a life-size, nearly full-length figure, illustrating one of Hood's greatest and saddest poems. A woman, still young in years, with fingers weary and worn,/ with eyelids heavy and red, sits at her old, bare, pine table, finishing the garments which give her as the fruit of unceasing toil, a bed of straw/ a crust of bread - and rags;/ that shattered roof, the naked floor,/ a table, a broken chair. The burned-out candle shows that she has been sitting all night at her work; the gray dawn is seen through the narrow window, creeping over the roofs of London; the smoke is seen rising from the chimneys, and every thing around seems preparing for the next day's toil before hers of yesterday is finished. Her eyes are dark-ringed and sunken, and look vacantly forward, longing, but for one short hour,/ a respite however brief; there being in that dreary life, from day to day, no blessed leisure for love or hope,/ but only time for grief./ A little weeping would ease the heart;/ but in their briny bed/ the tears must stop, for every drop/ hinders needle and thread. Her dress has become unfastened and has fallen from her shoulders, and the delicate fingers cannot stop their almost mechanical motion to replace it. " The artist has omitted the more repulsive features of extreme poverty, preferring to represent his ideal as a woman, who, though poor, is still refined, and avoids instinctively the conventional accessory of poverty - rags. He has been successful in catching the poet's ideas, aided by his own observation of living instances among our toiling women, the misery of whose lives no poet or artist can exaggerate. - New York Herald, October 16, 1875. " in Constant Mayer's illustration of Hood's 'Song of the Shirt,' he has succeeded in doing something remarkable - he has poetized a poem. . . . Mr. Mayer has rarely painted a face containing so much expression, poetry, and sentiment. The large, wistful eyes, heavy with the work of the long and weary night, and yet telling a story of aspirations, of blighted hopes, and a better and happier past, the sad expression of the mouth, the wan look about the cheeks, and the nervous, wearied contraction of the muscles, all tell the story of the idea as it has never before been told upon canvas. . . . peculiarly felicitous is the expression of the effect of the cold gray light of early morning, while the drawing of the figure is beyond reproach. It is, indeed, one of the pictures that live and are remembered as the exposition of a poetic temperament and a rarely facile power of execution. - New York Evening Express, October 16, 1875." [P. 78-79; ellipses appear in catalogue. See serial 03860199 for commentary on artist.]
Illustrated Catalogue of Works of Art in the Art Building of the Southern Exposition at Louisville, Ky. August 16 - October 25, 1884. Prepared by Charles M. Kurtz, Director of the Art Department. Editor of National Academy Notes and the Art Union Magazine. Published for the Art Committee by John P. Morton and Company.
Artist address: New York, New York.
Artist professional affiliation: Associate National Academician; F.L.H.
Topic:
Literature--Hood--Song Of The Shirt
Literature--Poetry
State of Being--Other--Poverty
Figure female
Architecture interior--Domestic--House
Object--Other--Candlestick
Occupation--Domestic--Sewing
Control number:
AECI 03860397
Data Source:
Pre-1877 Art Exhibition Catalogue Index

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