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This is the third of a set of three modern-life pictures on the theme of the fallen woman. The other two (N03278 and N03279) are also in the Tate collection. They are typical of the social moralist pictures that were popular in Victorian art. The theme of the triptych is the discovery of the woman's infidelity and its consequences. In the first scene the family are still together, and the husband has just learned of his wife's adultery. The second scene takes place five years later. The father has recently died and the mother has been driven out of her home, a fallen woman. The two orphaned girls comfort each other, the elder gazing sadly over the rooftops towards the moon. In this third picture the moon occupies the same position in the sky, indicating that the scene is taking place at the same time. The children's mother, now destitute, has taken refuge under one of the Adelphi arches, described by the Art Journal as 'the lowest of all the profound deeps of human abandonment in this metropolis' (quoted in Wood, p.53).
Further reading: Lionel Lambourne, 'Victorian Painting', London 1999, pp.374–375, reproduced p.377, in colour. Christopher Wood, Victorian Painting, London 1999, pp.52–53, reproduced p.53, in colour. Frances Fowle December 2000
Past and Present, No. 3
Oil on canvas
H 63.5 x W 76.2 cm
Presented by Sir Alec and Lady Martin in memory of their daughter Nora 1918