Re-discovered Victorian soup kitchen painting featured in Antiques Trade Gazette

As a centrepiece to their summer exhibition at London Art Week, Bagshawe Fine Art will offer a fascinating painting entitled One Dinner A Week by the Anglo-Irish artist Robert Ponsonby Staples (1853-1911). This is a large-scale picture of a Stepney ‘Soup Kitchen’ in the East End of London that has only recently been re-discovered. The painting was featured in the June 19th edition of the Antiques Trade Gazette as one of the highlights of the forthcoming London Art Week, which begins on 28th June.

Painted in 1884 and exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery that same year, One Dinner a Week is a powerful visualisation of the plight of London’s poorest children. Staples sets his scene in the Mission Hall in Salmon Lane, a steam-filled hall crammed with children on benches where Irish Stew is being served to them by the Mission director and no less a figure than the infamous Lady Colin Campbell (1857-1911). Referred to by one of her biographers as a ‘Victorian Sex Goddess,’ Lady Colin – known best to us today from Giovanni Boldini’s celebrated portrait of her in London’s National Portrait Gallery - was in fact involved in a notorious divorce hearing at exactly that time and, estranged from society, had engaged herself in charitable works. The title of the painting is a reference to an article of the same name by Charles Dickens (Junior) that was published contemporaneously and that detailed the work of Walter Austin (depicted by Staples alongside Lady Colin Campbell) and his London Cottage Mission.

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