Good News and Bad News

Good News and Bad News, 1876
John Bagnold Burgess (1830-1897)
Oil on canvas
BORGM 00392
Image © Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

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Good News and Bad News

In a Portuguese post office, two young women receive respectively good news and bad news. The woman in gold clasps her hands in joy, but another woman has not been quite so fortunate. Behind them, a priest consults the casualty list, giving good or bad news to his parishioners. Although the woman in the centre has been fortunate today, the discarded envelope and paper, not to mention the ladder of black lace climbing her sleeve, suggest her woes are still to come.

Born in London, Burgess came from a family of accomplished artists – his father, Henry William Burgess, was landscape painter to William IV. Burgess entered the Royal Academy as a student in 1849. Among his fellow students was Edwin Long and with him Burgess visited Spain for the first time in 1858. He had already displayed a penchant for painting portraits and genre scenes, but in Spain he discovered his true subject. Burgess, rather than just attracted by the colourful aspects of Spanish life, chose to often depict its harsher aspects. Over the next thirty years he frequently travelled to Spain, especially Seville, often living with local peasants to better absorb the local atmosphere.

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