About this artwork

This watercolour by Gourlay Steell is also known as ‘A satire on modern dress with the ghost of Galatea reacting in horror’. It shows two women in nineteenth-century dress, looking at fashion advertisements and dressmakers’ windows. From around 1840 until the end of the century, women’s fashion was dominated by the restrictive corset that reduced the waist to a tiny size and made it impossible to slump. The fullness of the skirt was achieved either by adding layers of material or by a steel framework underneath the skirt. Although elegant, these styles were neither comfortable nor easy to wear. In Steell’s drawing, the perfectly proportioned Galatea – who according to Greek mythology embodies the male ideal of female beauty – is dressed in rather more comfortable classical attire.

Gourlay Steell

Gourlay Steell