A World of Work explores the response of artists and designers to the realm of human labour against the background of John Ruskin’s social writings. Ruskin wrote at a time of bitter conflict between the barons of laissez faire capitalism and working people.
His writings address the dehumanisation of workers by the forces of mass production and made a central contribution to giving capitalism a degree of conscience. In the field of art these ideas fuelled a growth of social awareness, inspiring many artists to look at the world of work with new eyes and generating interest in alternative approaches such as the growth of the Arts and Crafts Movement.
Brantwood’s exhibition ranges across an almost impossibly wide field. Works on show explore the romanticised view of rural life from the Idyllic School, represented by Macbeth’s etching of The Harvest Moon by George Heming Mason and set it against the harsh reality of James Pelham’s Peasant Woman with a pitchfork. The brutal power of industry to reduce the worker to a cog in a machine is represented by Graham Sutherland’s dramatic wartime painting Press for making shells.