Using Victorian Photos As Reference


A few years ago I set myself a challenge using Victorian photos as reference. These were photographs of children that each had an emotional pull as far as I was concerned. I set out to create some paintings that captured that emotion. A form of expressionism.

Using Victorian Photos As Reference


I read a number of articles about the hardships of children during Victorian times (Jun 20, 1837 – Jan 22, 1901). There were a number of old black and white photographs of children accompanying the articles and some of them moved me to tears. I challenged myself to try and capture that emotion by creating paintings and these are the results.

Ghost Of A Child

Ghost Of A Child

What struck me about the original photo on which this image is based is that this is a very young child swamped in clothes and not looking particularly comfortable. Then, of course, it struck me that this child is long dead and hopefully lived a long and fulfilling life. I decided to create a piece speaking of the memory that this child once lived. Ghost of a Child sets out to accomplish that. It is an original painting that was then put through a digital program to achieve the ghostly effects I was looking for.



For my next exercise in using Victorian photos for reference, I selected a photograph that brought tears to my eye. Two very young children, dressed like miniature adults clinging to each other and had been sent out to work. In Victorian times child labor was widely used with families so poor they relied on the pittance these children were paid for their work. Children would start working from four or five years of age. The two in my painting Siblings were only a few years older. Children were often badly treated at work and were paid very little.

With my painting, I just wanted to get across that these children are having to behave like adults and the fact that they cling to each other for support.

The Naughty Corner

The Naughty Corner

My third and final exercise using Victorian photos as reference actually made me smile because it reminded me of my childhood. I don’t know about children in school and at home nowadays but when I was at school (more years ago than I care to remember) ‘The Naughty Corner‘ was where the misbehaving kids had to stand, facing the wall. I remember how mortifying it was to be singled out and made to stand in the corner. And that is what I have endeavored to get across with this painting.

Capturing The Emotions

Did I capture the emotions? Well, I believe I captured my emotions on viewing the photographs at least. Using Victorian photos as reference was a good exercise for me in working from the heart instead of the head!


Ghost of a Child is available from Pictorem (with free shipping in North America) and RedBubble (worldwide shipping)

Siblings is available from Pictorem and RedBubble.

The Naughty Corner is available from Pictorem and Redbubble.

Before you go

Mid-week Reflections
Dorothy and Barnet Boy

My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at

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About Dorothy Berry-Lound 422 Articles
I am having fun living half way up a mountain in Central Italy with my husband Barnet Boy, Stevie Mouse and the rest of my fur family. I am enjoying creating art that people will love having on their walls. I also love storytelling through my blog and short stories.

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