The painter, the press, the philanthropist, and the prostitute: the representation of the fallen woman in British visual culture (1850-1900)
thesisposted on 07.07.2017, 15:38 by Emily Elizabeth Wilce
This thesis explores how the fallen woman was depicted in British visual culture between the late 1840s and 1900. Previous research has focused on how the fallen woman was portrayed in art, literature, and to some extent the illustrated press but has not considered her representation in the illustrated periodicals produced by the Salvation Army or the implications of her illustration in the coverage of the Jack the Ripper murders. This thesis encompasses these neglected sources and argues that the intended audiences of these images profoundly influenced how the fallen woman was presented in each medium and how these portrayals were received. This research highlights, both thematically and chronologically, the impact which social thought had upon the portrayal of the fallen woman, the role of editors and critics in the mode and reception of works, concerns regarding the social acceptability of the fallen woman as a subject for mass consumption, and how the purpose of the image influenced its message. Chapter One explores the origins of the notion of the fallen woman and the significance of Christian tradition within Victorian culture. Chapter Two considers the portrayal of the fallen woman in painting, whilst Chapters Three and Four examine the role of the illustrated press. The thesis concludes with an examination of the publications produced by the Salvation Army during the 1890s, arguing that these periodicals purposefully adopted elements from the different mediums studied in the previous chapters so as to have the greatest impact upon their intended readers. It is my contention that the fallen woman was a malleable concept which could be subtly shaped to suit the sensibilities and pre-existing belief systems of different audiences, and that it can therefore be understood as a case study for the exploration of wider Victorian attitudes towards gender, morality, and artistic production.