Thursday 26 January 2012

The Last Chapter

It’s Thursday again, and time for a Thought or, in this case, a picture. The Last Chapter was painted by Robert Braithwaite Martineau in 1863, and I like the way the woman has obviously moved off the sofa and is kneeling on the rug, holding her book to catch every glimmer of light from the fire. Her face and the book are bathed in the glow from the flames, while through the window behind her you can see how daylight is fading.

She's completely engrossed in the book - perhaps it's one of those unputdownable (is that a word?)'sensation' novels which were so popular when this was painted in 1863.  At any rate, she's anxious to finish the volume before it gets too dark to read, because she wants to know what happens. I'm sure modern book-lovers will sympathise - I know I've often sat reading into the early hours, gripped by a book where I absolutely have to know the ending.  And think how difficult it must have been to carry on reading  in the days before electricity.

Born in 1826, Martineau trained as a lawyer before entering the Royal Academy and then studying under William Holman Hunt. His output was fairly small, and he was only in his forties when he died, in 1869.

This painting is in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, which is one of the best things (or even the best thing) about the city. It boasts an excellent collection of Pre-Raphaelites, and the most gorgeous Edwardian Tea Rooms, with huge potted plants (parlour palms,maybe) and a tiled floor and walls, so you can browse the paintings, then sit and read while enjoying tea and cake. Food for the body and the soul. It's a perfect combination.

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