Birmingham Museums for Kids

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Victorians - Investigate a Victorian painting

Cartoon icon for Victorian painting

The picture below is an example of a 'Pre-Raphaelite' painting, a style that was very popular in Victorian times. It is called 'Work' and was painted by a Victorian artist called Ford Madox Brown. 'Work' took over two years to paint and was completed in 1863.

A Victorian Painting Called 'Work' by Ford Madox Brown

The painting shows the types of different activities and people you might have seen in a busy Victorian Street. The Towns would have been full of all different types of people, both rich and poor. Let's find out about some of the people in the painting...


A young man digging. He is wearing a striped hat and a white shirt

"I'm a navvy that's short for 'navigator'. The first navigators built the canals at the end of the 1700s. I'm young and strong and the hero in this painting."

Another strong man digging, he is wearing a white shirt and mustard waistcoat

"We are digging this hole so that sewer pipes can be put in. This will stop the sewage getting mixed up with the drinking water and poisoning people. I am working very hard."

A red faced man shouting something out.  He is wearing a yellow shirt with a red waistcoat and bowtie

"I'm a beer seller from Birmingham. I was brought up in a slum but I've worked hard to earn a good living. I like brightly wear coloured clothes and stand out from the crowd."

A man and young lady riding horses side by side.  They are both wearing expensive looking hats

"I'm very rich because I'm a Colonel in the Army and a member of Parliament. My duaghter is riding beside me. I like to buy her beautiful dresses and gifts.
She doesn't go to work. We have servants to look after us."

A young gir with short hair wearing a large red dress. She is looking after 3 other children - holding tightly to her naughty brother

"Our mother died and now I have to look after my little brothers and sisters, and our dog. I'm wearing my mum's old red dress. It's far too big for me but we can't afford to buy new clothes."

A first sight this man looks like a women. He is wearing a tatty hat and carrying wild flowers in a basket

"I make a living by going out into the countryside very early in the morning to pick wild flowers and then coming back here to sell them.
I wear the flowers on my hat as an advert for my goods.

Two older, well dressed men stand at the side of the srteet watching the crowd

"We are working just as hard as the men digging the hole, but we are using our brains. We are rich and well dressed. We believe that all people should receive an education."


Printable Victorian activities | The Victorian timeline


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