Florence Claxton Woman’s Work: A Medley (1861)

Florence Claxton Woman’s Work: A Medley (1861)

A fundraising appeal

Manchester Art Gallery is seeking funding to acquire an extraordinary painting by Victorian artist, Florence Claxton. The painting, titled ‘Woman’s Work: A Medley’, features 34 figures, each one satirizing an aspect of the significant challenges women faced when trying to find meaningful work.

Grants and donations already secured cover nearly 86% of the cost. However, the gallery still needs to raise an additional £18,000.

Your help is vital. All donations will contribute to the successful acquisition of this historically important artwork for the Gallery and for the residents of Manchester. Even small amounts will help us reach our target.

The importance of this painting has been recognised by the V&A Purchase Grant and the Art Fund Acquisitions Grant who have generously contributed to the purchase of this painting for the nation.

Leanne Manfredi, National Programmes Lead, Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, Victoria and Albert Museum says:

The Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund supports the purchase of a wide range of material for the permanent collections of non-nationally funded organisations in England and Wales. We are delighted that this painting ‘Woman’s Work: A Medley’ by Florence Claxton is being acquired by Manchester Art Gallery. It will benefit audiences for years to come.

To make a donation please use the form below.

The image shows two paintings hung on a museum or gallery wall. The larger painting depicts a lively, crowded outdoor scene with numerous figures in colorful period costumes, appearing to be a festive gathering or celebration set in a rural landscape framed by an arch. The smaller painting on the right seems to portray a similar joyous outdoor scene with a group of figures. Both paintings are enclosed in ornate gilt frames. The plain wall color and plaques below each painting suggest this is a museum or gallery setting for displaying these artworks. Above image: A visualisation of Woman’s Work: A Medley displayed alongside Work by Ford Madox Brown.

About the artist and the artwork

Florence Ann Claxton (1838-1920) painted Woman’s Work: A Medley in 1861, and it remains the most ambitious known painting by any artist on the theme of women’s work. With its bright tones of sea, sky and colourful dresses, arched format and striking gilt frame, Woman’s Work is painted to arrest the eye. Yet its importance lies not in its considerable visual appeal, but in the ideas it conveys. Woman’s Work satirises the few professions open to Victorian middle-class women.

Claxton was as an illustrator for London journals and exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Society of Female Artists as well as at our very own Royal Manchester Institution in 1859 – the precursor to Manchester Art Gallery.

Claxton first exhibited Woman’s Work in 1861, when she was 22, probably the exhibiting high point of her career. Woman’s Work may have been a riposte to Ford Madox Brown’s Work (1852-65) which centres on a manual labourer and includes a full spectrum of workers.

Manchester Art Gallery is actively trying to increase the number of works in the collection by women artists. This is a rare painting by a Victorian woman artist and one of exceptional quality. It speaks not only to the gallery’s Victorian collection, but also to the role of women in contemporary society. Woman’s Work is a war cry that remains relevant today.