As a companion to yesterday’s ‘Stonemason's Yard’ by Canaletto, today I’m sharing a colored engraving of ‘Old Chairs to Mend’ by English artist Francis Wheatley. ‘Old Chairs’ was part of his “Cries of London,” a series of fourteen paintings depicting idealized images of humble street sellers, regarded as the lower social order, performing their various trades. These paintings were shown at the Royal Academy between 1792 and 1795, and shortly thereafter “Cries” was reproduced as a series of plates, receiving wide acclaim.
Upon first seeing ‘Old Chairs’ I was unaware of this context, or that it was part of a series, however I found myself drawn to this painting, intrigued that such a mundane activity was deemed worthy the canvas and granted a special dignity. I enjoy when an artist exercises his or her talent to upraise and immortalize those everyday observations which other folks usually overlook. Whether taken from a real-life account or loosely inspired by a study, I admire Wheatley’s elevation of this subject matter into something beautiful which catches the eye. Sure, it might not capture the reality of the actual scene, but it does offer a viewpoint which has a better chance of emotionally resonating with the viewer.
On a technical note, the soft coloring adds a neat effect. I also enjoy the little details throughout the scene, especially the basket in the upper left hand corner and the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral seen in the background.
For more information about the series, visit http://spitalfieldslife.com/2011/01/26/wheatleys-cries-of-london/