His Only Friend

Briton Rivière, 1840 - 1920

His Only Friend

Briton Rivière 1840 - 1920


A small thin boy leaning against a grassy bank at the side of a pale, sandy country road. He is fast asleep, with his head lolling back in the grass. The boy is wearing dark holey trousers, with a red waistcoat over a white shirt. All of his clothes are ragged. To the right, a small, light coloured terrier curls against the boy's side, licking his right hand, the dog's gaze fixed on the boy's dirty bare feet. The boy's left arm rests around his canine companion. To the right is a milestone engraved 'LONDON / 31 / MILES' set into the bank. In the background, thick tangled trees grow on the top of the bank.

Display Label

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.

Object Name

His Only Friend

Creators Name

Briton Rivière

Date Created



Frame: 130.5cm x 104.5cm
Canvas: 69.4cm x 95.1cm

accession number


Collection Group

fine art

Place of creation





oil paint


Bequested by Mr Jesse Haworth


© Manchester Art Gallery

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