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Frederick Walker ARA, Study of four figures bearing a man on a stretcher

Study of four figures bearing a man on a stretcher

Attributed to Frederick Walker ARA (1840 - 1875)

RA Collection: Art

This small pencil and chalk study shows four men bearing a man on a stretcher with three onlookers behind. The stately gait of the men and the grieving pose of the woman in the background to the left, who turns her head away from the scene while a man puts his hand on her shoulder to comfort her, suggest that the man on the stretcher has died.

The drawing is attributed to the illustrator and painter Frederick Walker. The previous owners of the work, Carel Weight RA and Helen Roeder, thought that the drawing may depict a scene from Charles Dickens's David Copperfield (serial 1849, novel 1850) in which James Steerforth, the former school friend of the eponymous hero, drowns in the sea in a terrible storm, his body eventually coming to shore:

'They brought a hand-bier, and laid him on it, and covered him with a flag, and took him up and bore him on towards the houses. All the men who carried him had known him, and gone sailing with him, and seen him merry and bold. They carried him through the wild roar, a hush in the midst of all the tumult; and took him to the cottage where Death was already.' (Chapter 56)

Walker made illustrations for Dickens's Hard Times, which were first published ca. 1868-74, and so it is possible that he planned to do the same with another famous Dickens story.

Object details

Study of four figures bearing a man on a stretcher
Attributed to Frederick Walker ARA (1840 - 1875)
Object type
Pencil and black and white chalk on green-grey wove paper

70 mm x 98 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Bequeathed by Carel Weight RA 1999
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