Elizabeth Allen - Population Explosion

Population Explosion

Elizabeth Allen

Date: 1965

Place: England

Materials and Techniques: Patchwork on canvas

Dimensions: 38.4 x 47.6 cm

Museum Number: Compton Verney, CVCSC 0058.F


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The mother and the nurse

This picture shows a mother and her seven children in bed being cared for by a nurse. It is made from small pieces of fabric that are sewn together, called a patchwork. It is a sentimental scene. The artist made it for herself to hang in her small home. She did not make it to hang in a gallery and be seen by other people.


The artwork is based on a very emotive story the artist heard on the radio. The story described how a woman was given a new fertility drug in order to conceive a child, but things went wrong. She produced seven children at once and all of them were stillborn. What first appears to be a cute family picture has a hidden purpose: it questions whether it is morally right to use drugs in this way.

Three of the seven still born babies

The artist was a very poor lady who lived in a small iron shack with only the radio for company. She made this work when she was aged 81. Art collectors at the time were interested in this picture because it was different and inspiring: a poor old lady's impression of the modern changing world.


This picture shows how an artist can comment on news stories through art. It is important to art collectors today because it shows how art can be made by everyone, whatever their age or background. It also has an important social message hidden within it around the use of fertility drugs.