Frank Holl came from a family of engravers, a profession he originally intended to follow. He is known for his portraits, including paintings of the royal family, as well as his depictions of the hardships facing the poorer elements of Victorian society. His social realism attracted the praise of Van Gogh who regarded Holl as one of Britain’s best painters. Overwork contributed to Holl’s illness and death aged just 43.
Song of the Shirt reflects the darker side of Victorian life. The title is taken from a poem by Thomas Hood, which relates the plight of a needle-woman employed on meagre wages. It was in these pitiful conditions that dresses were made for fashionable young ladies, such as Frith’s three daughters shown in The Fair Toxophilites.
Purchased with assistance from the Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, 1975