Too late – Tate Britain

Frustrated with my lack of ‘vision’ over my new set of portraits of my family, I went to the Tate Britain for some inspiration. After looking at a few Gainsborough’s and John Millais’ work, I found some ideas in my mind and noted them down in my notebook. William Lindsay Windus’ painting Too late (1858), was the work that jumped out to me. The connection between the characters are very much like siblings, or at least family. The distress and the need for comfort from the facial expressions show that these individuals are under some distress.

When one reads what the Tate has to say of the image:

This painting was originally exhibited with a quotation from Alfred Tennyson’s poem Come not when I am dead. The woman on the left is dying of consumption and a broken heart. The man is her errant lover. He has returned to her side but too late for them to enjoy any time together. He hides his face in shame at his deceit. She shrinks from him, clearly disturbed by his return.Windus emphasises her illness by contrasting her pale clothes, lank hair and pinched features with those of the rosy-cheeked woman in a rich purple dress.

I feel so much emotion in the image. Now knowing what the characters are, the look of bewilderment from the woman dying of consumption to the shame the man is showing, their connection and tension is so much stronger. It does not speak of the young girl, is she the daughter of the woman dying or the woman comforting? Perhaps not the strong storyline underneath but I want to use this sortof tension in my own work.


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