Exploding the Hearth

Considering Victorian Aging


  • Lauren Palmor University of Washington






The image of the aged parent or grandparent sitting contentedly before the hearth is a canonical trope in Victorian visual culture. The freside was, at that time, a signifcant center of the home and family, and older members of the household were viewed as principal organizing forces around this central gathering place. This article examines the archetypal image of the senescent hearthside fgure in order to better evaluate the larger context in which Victorian aging was visually interpreted and generally understood. By examining depictions of this theme by the popular British painters Walter Dendy Sadler and Frederick Daniel Hardy, this study demonstrates some ways in which art history may proft from age studies in formulating expanded readings of such material.

Author Biography

Lauren Palmor, University of Washington

Lauren Palmor is a Ph.D. candidate in Art History at the University of Washington in Seattle. She holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art. Her graduate work has been dedicated to illuminating neglected narratives in nineteenth-century British and American art, and her dissertation research concerns the status and depiction of aging in Anglo-American genre painting. She lives in San Francisco, where she works in the American Art department at the de Young Museum. Readers may write to Lauren Palmor at palmor@uw.edu.


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How to Cite

Palmor, L. . “Exploding the Hearth: Considering Victorian Aging”. Age, Culture, Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 2, Jan. 2015, pp. 185-01, doi:10.7146/ageculturehumanities.v2i.130743.