Men at Work


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Art and Labour in Victorian Britain

Tim Barringer

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For artists of the increasingly mechanized Victorian age, questions about the meaning and value of labour presented a series of urgent problems: Is work a moral obligation or a religious duty? Must labour be the preserve of men alone? Does the amount of work bestowed on a painting affect its value? Should art celebrate wholesome rural work or reveal the degradations of the industrial workplace? In this highly original book, Tim Barringer considers how artists and theorists addressed these questions and what their solutions reveal about Victorian society and culture.
Based on extensive new research, Men at Work offers a compelling study of the image as a means of exploring the relationship between labour and art in Victorian Britain. Barringer arrives at a major reinterpretation of the art and culture of nineteenth-century Britain and its empire as well as new readings of such key figures as Ford Madox Brown and John Ruskin.

Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

Tim Barringer is associate professor in the Department of the History of Art at Yale University. He is the author of Reading the Pre-Raphaelites and coeditor of Frederic Leighton: Antiquity, Renaissance, and Modernity, both published by Yale University Press.

"Complimenting the exceptional scholarship is the usual high production standards, with its handsome design and superb illustrations of Yale University Press."—ArLis Newssheet

"Barringer's lively prose and ability to bring lines of argument back to the images that are at the heart of his enquiry make for compelling and often exhilirating reading.  His methodological sophistication also makes this a book of enormous richness and one that is certain to provide stimulus for further work."---Burlington Magazine

"Tim Barringer has written an impressively erudite and subtle book... [It] is certain to be important, not only for its precise, informative account of its subject, but also as a model for the value, complexity and range of works made in England at this period."---Visual Culture

"Tim Barringer's excellent book exemplifies cultural studies in its thorough integration of visual, social, and historical content and visual studies in its embrace of high art painting, press illustration, architecture, and decoration. . . . Barringer's profound grasp of Victorian visual culture and history permits him to expand his analysis from the canonical Work to broader issues of artists' invested representations of labor, workers' self-fashioned images, medievalism, labor history, and colonial labor, making the case for art's contributions to the production of meaning and the social order."—Julie F. Codell, Victorian Studies


“Barringer has produced . . . a very impressive book which sits across a variety of audiences and disciplines. . . . The obvious readers are those engaged in art history, but such is the range of the book that it needs to be read by those in the wider humanities and social sciences for it offers important clues as to society’s attitude to work ranging from artistic elites down to working-class operatives. Men at Work . . . will be the standard work on the period for years to come. It represents the type of writing that exemplifies a cultural sociology of work.”—Tim Strangleman, Working Lives Research Institute, London Metropolitan University

"An important contribution both to the study of mid-Victorian visual culture and to the larger theoretical questions raised by recent scholars of Victorian art. . . . Filled with rewarding close readings of a wide range of visual sources and a wealth of detail about mid-Victorian religious beliefs, industrial machinery, agricultural practices, and much more. The book is beautifully designed and lavishly illustrated, with thirty-three well-chosen color illustrations usefully integrated within the text, and one hundred and thirteen black-and-white illustrations. . . . It is to be hoped that this beautifully produced and illustrated book will raise the profile of Victorian art in the United States."—Pamela M. Fletcher, CAA Reviews

Winner of the Historians of British Art Book Prize on a post-circa 1800 subject
ISBN: 9780300103809
Publication Date: February 11, 2005
Publishing Partner: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
392 pages, 8 x 10
113 b/w + 33 color illus.
Frederic Leighton

Antiquity, Renaissance, Modernity

Edited by Tim Barringer and Elizabeth Prettejohn

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Art and Emancipation in Jamaica

Isaac Mendes Belisario and His Worlds

Tim Barringer, Gillian Forrester, and Barbaro Martinez Ruiz

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Landscape, Innovation, and Nostalgia

The Manton Collection of British Art

Edited by Jay A.

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On the Viewing Platform

The Panorama between Canvas and Screen

Edited by Katie Trumpener and Tim Barringer

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Thomas Cole's Journey

Atlantic Crossings

Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser and Tim Barringer; With contrib

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