The J. Paul Getty Museum

When the Day's Work Is Done

Object Details


When the Day's Work Is Done


Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830 - 1901)




London, England (Place Created)




Albumen silver print

Object Number:



56 × 74.5 cm (22 1/16 × 29 5/16 in.)

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Object Description

In search of the "genuine peasant" type for this genre scene of domestic rural life, Henry Peach Robinson described how he first envisioned this image:

One of the best models I ever employed was an old man of seventy-four. He was a crossing-sweeper. I should never have accomplished one of my best works if I had not seen him sitting at a table in my studio, waiting, till I could talk to him. I not only saw the old man there, but mentally, the old lady, and the interior of the cottage...The old man, by his attitude and expression, gave the germ of the idea; the old lady had to be found, and the cottage built, but they appeared to me then quite visibly and solidly.

When Day's Work is Done
exists in more copies than any other photograph by Robinson. The photograph is a combination print made from six different negatives, a significant technical accomplishment. The negatives were attached in pairs to a sheet of glass for support, and the final image was made in three printings of those pairs.

The line between the light-colored wall behind the woman and the dark shadows of the room, a stage set built for the photograph, reveals one of the seams between negatives. This deceptively simple domestic scene required a complicated printing process to accommodate its range of illumination, from the dark foreground to the bright outdoors seen through the window.

Experimental Photography: The First Golden Age 1851-1889 (April 11 to June 25, 1989)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), April 11 to June 25, 1989
Pictorial Effect / Naturalistic Vision (March 21 to September 11, 1994)
  • Art Museum, Princeton University (Princeton), March 21 to June 7, 1994
  • Walter P. Chrysler (New York), June 21 to September 11, 1994
Arrows of Time: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (January 24 to April 2, 1995)
  • Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at UCLA (Los Angeles), January 24 to April 2, 1995
Capturing Time: A Celebration of Photographs (December 1, 1997 to March 1, 1998)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 1, 1997 to March 1, 1998
In Focus: Making a Scene (June 30 to October 18, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), June 30 to October 18, 2009