Size: 40.7 x 53.3 cm
Exhibited: Royal Academy, 1887; International Exhibition, Paris, 1889; Manchester, 1987
The painting formed part of an retrospective of Victorian social realist art at Manchester, one hundred years after it was first exhibited, and was noted by Julian Treuherz in his accompanying catalogue, Hard Times: Social Realism in Victorian Art (Lund Humphries, London/Manchester City Art Galleries, 1987). ‘It would count simply as a piece of lively genre were it not for the oddity of the subject … This unposed picture of convicts, painted with a fresh eye, is very far from the contrived prison scenes of Doré or Holl. In all his social pictures Crowe accepts his subjects as facts rather than vehicles for pathos or moralising’. Convicts at Work had been purchased by Trafalgar Galleries of London at auction at Bonham’s in 1969.
Athenaeum, 28 May 1887:
For Mr. Crowe’s Convicts at Work, Portsmouth (807), we care less than for the Red Maids’ picture [Arithmetic].