William Maw EgleyOmnibus Life in London 1859

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Artwork details

William Maw Egley (1826‑1916)
Omnibus Life in London
Date 1859
MediumOil paint on canvas
Dimensionssupport: 448 x 419 mm frame: 620 x 597 x 56 mm
Acquisition Bequeathed by Miss J.L.R. Blaker 1947
On display at Tate Britain
Room: 1840


The painting of modern-life subjects was popularised during the 1850s by such artists as William Frith (1819-1909). Artists deliberately chose subjects such as racetracks, seaside resorts and busy streets where all classes of society could be represented in the one picture. Following this trend, Egley exhibited Omnibus Life in London at the British Institution in 1859. He may have been inspired by the French artist Honoré Daumier's pictures of the cramped interior of railway carriages, but comparisons can also be drawn with such works as Charles Rossiter's To Brighton and Back for 3s 6d (Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery), painted in the same year as Egley's picture.

The omnibus - a horse-drawn carriage that picked up and deposited people along an established route - was introduced into London on 4 July 1829 and quickly became a popular mode of transport. One observer commented that, 'Among the middle classes of London the omnibus stands immediately after air, tea, and flannel, in the list of the necessaries of life…the Londoner cannot get on without it.' (M.E… (read more)

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