Darning Day: Red Maids’ School, Bristol (1876)

Darning Day (1876)

Darning Day (1876) (c) Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Medium: oil

Size: 45.2 cm, Width: 112.6 cm

Exhibited: Royal Academy, 1876

Current owner: Aberdeen Art Gallery (Acc. No. ABDAG003361), bequeathed by Alexander Macdonald, 1901


The Times, 29 April 1876:

‘Darning-day – Red Maids’ School, Bristol’ hangs in the second room. The red-clad little maidens, who seem to find their darning so tedious, are too small in scale for the dimensions of the picture, too much of which is taken up with uninteresting architecture.

Athenaeum, 13 May 1876:

A picture which will charm a greater number of persons than the last [The Rehearsal] exhibits the painter’s English subject, which is a very pretty and novel one: it is styled Darning Day, Red Maids’ School, Bristol (146). A numerous party of girls, in the brilliant red gowns and white aprons which form the peculiar costume of the institution, are seated on a long bench before the wall of their school, in the smoky sunlight which fills the bare playground of the place. This is the day set apart as a sort of ‘holiday’, in order to general darning of blue hose; many a pair is calling aloud for the needle, but the maids do not all rise to the occasion, for some are dozing, many a gossipping girl sits with a stocking neglected, and thread that is motionless; some really work; one is duly intent on an ailing eye; one yawns as if bored out of her life. The brilliancy of the dresses, and the spirit of the design by which each figure tells a little story, are unexceptional features of the picture, which, in the background and foreground, is rather too uncompromisingly faithful, or, perhaps, it is only too literal to be as charming in frank handling and rich colouring as the other and more important parts are. We could desire more brightness and variety of tone and colour in these accessories; but nothing could be better than the drawing and painting of the figures and faces, or more acceptable than the wealth of character in the girls.

Art Journal, August 1876:

EYRE CROWE’S ‘Darning-day, Red Maids’ School, Bristol (146), a row of twenty girls in red dresses and white pinafores seated along the wall of a great room, will be thoroughly appreciated by everybody for the truth and naïveté with which the artist distinguishes the character of one girl from that of another.

2 Responses to Darning Day: Red Maids’ School, Bristol (1876)

  1. Emma says:

    Amazing! The newspapers may not have appreciated it much when it was first exhibited but I was a Red Maid so it is fascinating. What a pity this isn’t at the school. The entrance hall in the school’s Main Building has a few historical photographs but I’ve never seen anything so natural showing the girls in their uniform. As a boarder we had to wear traditional uniform for photographs and Founder’s Day.

    • Kathryn Summerwill says:

      Thanks Emma. I think Eyre Crowe liked the picturesque nature of the colourful uniforms. How interesting that they are still in occasional use!

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