8 October 2015


This is a fascinating painting (although we could not see it in Hull as the Ferens Gallery is closed for renovation until 2017 when Hull becomes City of Culture). It’s called The War Worker but it’s 1919. The book about Fred Elwell by Wendy Loncaster and Malcom Shields says that  the mother is in land-working clothes and is leaving the house early;  before she goes, she brings her daughter breakfast. It is cold and snowy outside but warm and cosy inside. However, the date of 1919 is odd: why would the mother still be going out to do war work? Another possible interpretation is that the mother is not in land-working clothes and it’s simply a large brooch rather than a badge she’s wearing; and the girl is pregnant (maybe her husband was killed) or ill or convalescent. The mother is looking slightly supplicantly at the girl as if to say, please eat the breakfast. Maybe the girl was the war worker and now she is recovering from the trauma and the hard work.