Richard Redgrave RA, The Outcast, oil on canvas, 1851.
© Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Object of the Month - March 2008


Richard Redgrave RA, The Outcast, oil on canvas, 1851.

The Outcast shows an unmarried mother and her innocent child being cast out of the respectable family home by her father. In the foreground on the floor is what may be an incriminating letter, possibly naming the father of the child. The print on the wall shows a scene from the Old Testament which reinforces the drama which is taking place in the painting; Abraham casting out Hagar and her illegitimate child Ishmael. Various members of her family are shown imploring with the father to let her stay, but to no avail, and the scene is made even more pitiful by the snow drifts outside the door and the baby’s hand raised in echo of the pleading sister.

Redgrave presented this painting to the Royal Academy as his Diploma work in 1851, and pictures like this with a moral subject were popular in Victorian art. He studied in the Royal Academy Schools from 1826 and regularly exhibited in the Royal Academy from 1825 until 1883, when his eyesight failed him. Originally he produced works of historical and literary subjects. However, from the 1840's he painted themes which exposed the cruelty of Victorian society, especially to women, with works such as The Governess (1844, Victoria & Albert Museum) and The Sempstress (1846, private collection). In 1850 in the Art Journal he wrote that:

'my best efforts in art have aimed at calling attention to the trials and struggles of the poor and oppressed.'

This work will be on display in the John Madejski Fine Rooms at the Royal Academy until 7 December 2008 as part of the display From All Walks of Life: Genre Paintings from the Royal Academy Collection.