Down and Out In Paris / by Geoff Harrison

"What Is Called Vagrancy", 1855 (132 cm x 162 cm) by Alfred Stevens.  Three soldiers escort a beggarwoman and her 2 children off to prison whilst a passing woman appears to be making an offering, only to be warned off by one of the soldiers.

I've always admired the art of the 19th Century social realists as I like to refer to them as, depicting the lives of the anonymous poor as an urgently topical subject, to quote art historian Robert Rosenblum.  Whilst they had a powerful message to convey, they never forgot that they were artists, first and foremost.  Today the message seems to drown out the art in many instances, judging by what I encountered at art school and beyond.