Catalogue entry

Sir Luke Fildes 1844–1927

T01227 Applicants for Admission to a Casual Ward after 1908

Not inscribed.
Canvas, 22½ x 37 (57 x 94).
Purchased at Christie’s (Grant-in-Aid) 1970.
Coll: Sir Luke Fildes, sold Christie’s, 24 June 1927 (5), bt. Gooden & Fox for Mrs Edwin Tate; ...; F. W. Wignall; his widow, sold 1958; Sir Leonard Stone, sold Christie’s, 10 July 1970 (152, repr.), bt. J. S. Maas & Co. Ltd for the Tate Gallery.
Exh: Works of Art from Private Collections, City of Manchester Art Gallery 1960 (172).

Fildes exhibited ‘Applicants for admission to a casual ward’ (Collection Royal Holloway College) at the Royal Academy in 1874, accompanying it in the catalogue with Dickens’ description of a scene outside the Whitechapel Workhouse in 1855:

‘Dumb, wet, silent horrors! Sphinxes set up against that dead wall, and none likely to be at the pains of solving them until the general overthrow.’

The composition of the painting was based on Fildes’ famous ‘Houseless and Hungry’ drawing published in the first issue of The Graphic in 1869, which led to his being commissioned by Dickens to illustrate Edwin Drood.

Although exhibited in 1960, and sold in 1970, as the original sketch for the painting, T01227 is in fact a later replica by Fildes. This is shown by the Roberson stamp on the back of the canvas, which is in a form not adopted until 1908. The original double canvas gives no indication of having been removed from the stretcher, nor has it been relined. In addition, a stencil on the stretcher identifies the picture as having been in Fildes’ sale in 1927. Two versions of the composition were in the sale: one, described as ‘The Original Sketch’, measured 24 x 45½ in.; the other, called a ‘Finished replica’, measured 22 x 36½ in. The size of T01227 corresponds with the latter. The original sketch was bought at the sale by Sir Aston Webb but its present whereabouts is unknown.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.