A snowy track through Glen Birnam in Scotland, a forested valley surrounded by mountains, along which an old woman walks. She has her back to the viewer, and has just passed the joining of two tracks, the fork being in the right foreground. The joined track then curves around, bending off into the trees in the right middle ground. The old woman wears a red head covering, a dark plaid shawl and a plain dark dress and boots. She carries an apparently empty oval wicker basket with a curved handle. The covering of snow is thin on the track, and at the sides is not thick enough to cover the orange bracken and yellowish grass. The trees are narrow-trunked, mainly silver birch, though some are beech. Evergreens are visible on the distant mountainside. Dark twigs are silhouetted against the grey sky, which is tinged with pink and gold.
Gallery text panel Life and Landscape High-Victorian Social and Rural Subjects The Pre-Raphaelite interest in modern life was paralleled by a more general demand for contemporary subjects. The Victorians' fascination with their growing world of new social types and changing patterns of behaviour is particularly echoed in their love of crowd scenes. Some artists tried to highlight the darker side of society by focusing on the plight of the less well off. Yet representations of the working class and unemployed are usually idealised or softened by sentimental treatment. The wealthier classes provided more popular themes in art: high society is often both celebrated and analysed in paintings of domestic interiors and social engagements. Depictions of the city and industrial activity are rare. In an age of urban degradation and mass poverty collectors sought escapism more than social reflection, which gave rise to an unparalleled market for landscapes. Typically extreme in evoking serenity or bleakness, their appeal often revolves around open-ended narratives and the presence or suggestion of human activity.
Canvas: 145.2cm x 101.1cm
frame: 181.4cm x 138.8cm
Place of creation
Bequested by Mrs Enriqueta A Rylands, 1908.
© Manchester Art Gallery