Dispossession from small rural landholdings and the decline in the viability of many smallholdings in the 19th century led to widespread evictions. In the absence of general welfare provisions and with the vagaries of the poor law, many women and children in particular were left homeless—scenes poignantly shown in Millais' ‘Blow, blow the winter wind’ and Fletcher's Evicted. Many rural workers migrated to the colonies, leaving the old and young behind, as in Faed's Last of the Clan, or to the industrial cities, where they often lived in appalling, overcrowded conditions that led to the rise of communicable diseases such as cholera and tuberculosis. The tubercular woman in Josef Israëls' Woman at the Window seems to look out of a small dark window in despair.
Evicted 1887 presents the narrative of a dispossessed widow and her child, forced to leave their home while the top-hatted bailiff and the village look on. Fletcher's choice of an overcast autumn day heightens the sense of loss and sadness. The leaves littering the ground and the child's broken toy add to the drama.
Blandford Fletcher was a member of the Newlyn school, based in south-western England. His works typified the narrative style of painting in the age of Queen Victoria. Paintings played a role in the moral, historical and social education of the mainly middle-class population who viewed them.
Meticulous, photograph-like detail was highly valued by Victorian viewers. Details such as facial expressions, small symbolic objects, flowers, clothes, colours, moods and seasons were all open to interpretation and read like clues to a puzzle.