Enjoying Great Art

Margaret and I as Christians have always enjoyed great art. One of our favorite painters is Sir Samuel Luke Fildes.

He was born in Liverpool in 1844 and was an orphan. Later he was adopted and became a well-known portrait painter.

However, he gave up painting the rich and famous, such as the Queen, and began to paint the houseless and hungry plight of the homeless.

Luke Fildes was asked to provide an illustration to accompany an article on the Houseless Poor Act, a new measure that allowed some of those people out of work to shelter for a night in the casual ward of a workhouse. The picture produced by Fildes showed a line of homeless people applying for tickets to stay overnight in the workhouse.

The wood-engraving, entitled Houseless and Hungry, was seen by John Everett Millais, who brought it to the attention of Charles Dickens; Dickens was so impressed that he immediately commissioned Fildes to illustrate The Mystery of Edwin Drood (a book Dickens never finished as he died while writing it).

One of his famous paintings of the poor is, The Village Wedding. Margaret purchased a color print of the painting (from China) as a birthday gift for me. It now hangs in our living room. I first saw a black and white print in Canada years ago and liked it very much.

Fildes’ first son, Philip, died of tuberculosis in 1877. The image of the doctor at his son’s side during the ordeal left a lasting memory of professional devotion that inspired Fildes’ 1891 work The Doctor. His later son, Sir Paul Fildes, was an eminent scientist.

Sir Luke Fildes was knighted in 1906 by King Edward VII.