The End Painting
This brooding and atmospheric painting of British authorship depicts a seated man with eyes downcast and head in hand, while an ominous shadowy figure watches him from a doorway in the distance. The expression of the figure and overall mood of the image suggest an experience of deep thought and emotion, which is further emphasized by the dark colour palette and use of chiaroscuro. These elements align with the Romanticism movement, which experienced its height between 1780–1830 in Britain, with a lasting influence throughout the Industrial Revolution. The emphasis on human psychology and emotionalism in subject and technique defined the art and literature of the period: people began to question their place in the cosmos as the world around them shifted to one of mass production and poor living conditions. Social and cultural factors provide further context for this artwork as the Victorian era saw rise to new realizations regarding death and mourning – partially inspired by Queen Victoria’s (r. 1837–1901) loss of her beloved husband Prince Albert (1819–1861). Increasing ceremonialization, as well as the production of macabre imagery made the subject of death feel bleak and beautiful, familiar and unifying. In the cultural sphere, the re-discovery of Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669) heavily influenced the art of the period, especially portraiture. The tension between drama and stillness, hazy quality, and focus on the individual that characterize this painting, recall the work of the Dutch artist, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest masters in history.
At this time, the Industrial Revolution transformed Great Britain, Europe, and the United States. Occurring from 1760 until the mid 1800s, this period was marked by numerous transitions in manufacturing, including going from hand production methods to machinery. These changes began a major turning point in history, comparable in scope only to humanity’s adoption of agriculture. The Industrial Revolution changed almost every aspect of daily life, leading to an unprecedented spike in population growth.