preraphaelites at tate britain

Contemporary and Old Art Reviews

preraphaelites at tate britain

Postby jack dawes » Tue Oct 23, 2012 8:54 am

Why are the Pre-Raphaelites so bad? They lived at a time of extraordinary economic and cultural energy, they were championed by a genius critic in Ruskin, they had some ideas and yet their paintings are universally grotesque and ugly. They did much hard labour and pushed themselves onwards to yet more vulgar, garishly coloured pics. I believe Lord Andrew Lord webber is a fan. The paintings are popular and the galleries were filled with dodos. While the english painters overworked fairytales the french were reinventing painting. What went wrong, if we could work that out we might understand good painting better.
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Re: preraphaelites at tate britain

Postby CAP » Wed Oct 24, 2012 11:17 am

It's true when you think about how exciting Constable and Turner had been, the Pre-Raphs come as a major disappointment. Even when you think about how visionary and bold William Blake and Samuel Palmer were, the Pre-Raphs come off as well naff; their literary pretensions stunted and dull, diligent but uninspired. They're craftsmen when we crave artists. I blame Ruskin for a lot of it. And I can never forgive him for destroying all those nudie drawings by JMW. If I should see him in hell at some point rest assured I shall tear his nuts off and remind him of his offence. But I think the greater part of the problem lies in Victorian stability and conservatism. France had any number of Repulblics to really stir things up, whereas Britain rolls along in relentless imperialism. All work and no play makes Johnny Bull a dull person.

Then again there's the old excuse that it's a Protestant culture, built on a deep suspicion of graven images and dedicated to The Word and hence literature. And it's true the 18th and 19th century throw up a constant stream of great poets and novelists for Britannia. But of course, you can say the same of France, so I don't really buy this one. Whenever I get too depressed by the Pre-Raphs, I always like to remember the example of Richards Parkes Bonnington - who did find a freer handling and vision, albeit inspired by the French that had been inspired by Constable. He's a modest painter of seeside scenes but he does escape that crippling Victorian taste for anecdote and pointless precision.

;)
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