Benjamin Robert Haydon

Punch or May Day

1829

On display at Tate Britain

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1505 x 1851 mm
frame: 2010 x 2270 x 165 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by George Darling 1862
Reference
N00682

Display caption

Haydon had ambitions to be a history painter, but after some early successes struggled to find patrons or public support for his huge canvases of noble themes from history or scripture. In the late 1820s, after repeatedly falling into debt and even being imprisoned, he painted several subjects of contemporary life that he hoped would be more commercial. This richly detailed composition is intended to capture the energy of contemporary London. A crowd mingles with a costumed procession in the Marylebone Road. Haydon thought of calling this picture simply ‘Life’, suggesting that he retained a sense of ambition even in painting such a lowly subject.

Gallery label, February 2016

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