Congratulations to Nicholas Baldion who has won the Mr Heatherley Composition Prize 2019.
‘I’m very proud to have won the Mr Heatherley prize for figure composition with this painting. “The Arrest of the Tolpuddle Martyrs”. Espicially considering the highstandands of my fellow artists.
I’ve always enjoyed how the old masters would take a biblical story and retell it as if it was happening in there own time and location. Mine is not a biblical story, but one from labour history.
The Tolpuddle martyrs have come to represent the symbolic birth of the trade union movement. In 1833 six agricultural labourers were transported to Australia under the pretext of swearing secret oaths. In reality it was for organising a trade union to fight against starvation wages. Up until now this is an all to common story. Two years prior in the wake of the swing rebellion, 481 were transported to Australia, 19 were executed and many more were imprisoned or publicly flogged.
The difference in 1833 was, for the first time the working class had begun to organise nationally. There was the Grand National Consolidated Trade union. And the response to the tolpuddle mayters transportation, was a mass movement through the country. Fearing revoluton the Tolpuddle martyrs were pardoned and allowed to return home. Many later went on to be involved with the chartist movement that followed.
Organisations such as the Tolpuddle martyrs museum do an excellent job keeping our hidden history alive.
Thanks to John Walton who provided the prize and my appreciation to daphne todd who picked the winning painting.’