contextual study: landscape and class

(image of Greyson Perry’s The Upper Class at Bay, from The Vanity of Small  Differences tapestry series, 2012, taken at the RHA Gallery, 2018).

had a great visit to the RHA with my students to see work by Greyson Perry. in his series of 6 tapestries ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’ (2012) Perry presents contemporary scenes which explore the themes of class and taste. based on Hogarth’s 1733 paintings ‘A Rake’s Progress’, Perry’s tapestries narrate the birth, life and death of the fictional character Tim Rakewell. depicting his life, Perry draws on the people he met when travelling through England exploring the nations views on taste. Perry’s tapestries examine class mobility through consumerism and the investment people make with things they buy, wear, eat etc.

Upper Class at Bay: connecting with some ideas that i have been exploring in relation to landscape and identity, Perry maintains that a person’s taste says more about them than their gender or race. one of the tapestries which caught my eye was the 5th tapestry, ‘Upper Class at Bay’, which is based on the landscape painting ‘Mr and Mrs Andrews’ by Gainsborough (1750) and which i discussed in a previous post. in the original painting, the wealth of this couple is displayed as a wide open landscape. Perry disrupts the image of Gainsborough’s happy couple by placing an angry looking man-headed beast in the couple’s path and showing the landscape with broken fences and muddy puddles. Perry’s re-imagined scene is making a comment on class snobbery; ‘new money’ versus ‘old money’ wealth… so class is always at play even amongst the wealthy.


Mr and Mrs Andrews, 1750, Thomas Gainsborough.  (


(Greyson Perry‘, The Vanity of Small  Differences, 2012, RHA Gallery, 2018)

anyway, it’s exciting to see landscape and identity explored in such a vibrant and contemporary way in his work. landscape is as strong a vehicle as ever for the representation of identity, class and power.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: