Applicants for Admission to a Casual Ward

…by the famous artist Luke Fildes

painting by the famous artist Luke Fildes

Early painting by the famous English painter (Samuel) Luke Fildes (1844-1927). Fildes painted this beautiful, yet somber, depiction of the poor seeking lodging in England in 1874.

The original drawing of this painting was first published in the newspaper The Graphic with information about the 1864 Houseless Poor Act which permitted homeless people to sleep in the casual wards of workhouses. In the picture, Fildes depicts a group of downtrodden people queuing up to receive one of the coveted tickets handed out by the police.

Fildes, in his own words describes how he came to be inspired to paint this picture, “I had been to a dinner party, I think, and happened to return by a police-station, when I saw an awful crowd of poor wretches applying for permits to lodge in the Casual Ward. I made a note of the scene, and after that often went again, making friends with the policeman and talking with the people themselves. The was my chance, and I at once began to make studies for my Graphic picture. From that I elaborated the large canvas afterwards exhibited at the Academy.”

Large canvas is a bit of an understatement, the canvas is actually nine feet long. The artist got to know some of the people he met in the line and invited them to his house to sit for him.