"Royal Academy: The Eighty-Third Exhibition–1851." Art Journal 13 (1 Jun. 1850), 153-163.

excerpts

Even the revolutionary faction–the young England section–who significantly call themselves Pre-Raffaelites, are unusually enterprising. Narrow indeed is the way they have chosen, because truly between the Giottesque and the grotesque there is but a step; they dream of material beauty, but they never get beyond the study of the skeleton. The liberality of art attaches to the study of the Beautiful, between which and to aiscron there are many degrees. . . .

No. 380. ‘Geoffrey Chaucer reading the "Legend of Custance" to Edward III. and his Court, at the Palace of Sheen, on the anniversary of the Black Prince’s forty-fifth Birthday,’ F. M. Browne. This is a truly magnificent essay, it has abundance of every quality necessary to constitute excellence in Art. It is original and independent in everything; indeed, too much so; a little more of judicious conventionality had communicated to it a certain substance of which it appears deficient. It is a very large production, with a numerous assemblage of figures of the size of life. Chaucer stands the prominent figure, in a light grey gown, with his manuscript on a reading-stand. On the right of the picture is seated Edward III., and on his left, or on this side of him, the Black Prince, who is in his last illness, Johanna, his wife, and their child, afterwards Richard II. On the right of the king is Alicia Perrers, formerly one of the attendants of Queen Philippa, and near her is John of Gaunt, the patron of Chaucer. There are also Sir John Froissart, and the poet Gower, Chaucer’s wife and her sister, with a papal nuncio and other figures. The costume of this period is distinguished by forms and parts which are with difficulty rendered otherwise than stiff; but this is not felt elsewhere than in the figure of Chaucer, whose pose might have been more graceful. Every figure of the composition evinces research and unwearied study, but a deficiency of shade deprives the composition of depth, and the figures of substance. Another and a serious evil resulting from this is, that the figures are struggling for precedence to the eye; for instance, the hat of the cardinal is as near to us as Froissart, properly a nearer figure; and again, the drapery of the Black Prince comes forward with equal force, although yet further off. It is a production almost in the first class of this kind of composition: but it is a picture of genius rather than of power. . . .

No. 493. ‘Convent Thoughts,’ C. Collins. A composition in the taste of the P.-R. B., presenting a single figure, a nun meditating in the garden of her nunnery. The figure is excessively meagre; there seems to be nothing within the draperies, and then the head, which is disproportionately large, over-balances the rest of the figure: there was never anything in nature like the effect of the potent greens of these parterres. If there be anything right in this then all art since the days of Masaccio is wrong. . . .

No. 561. ‘* * * *’ J. E. Millais. The subject of this nameless picture is Mariana from Tennyson:–

"She only said, my life is dreary,

He cometh not, she said;

She said I am aweary, aweary,

I would that I were dead."

It contains only one figure, that of a lady laid in with the utmost force of ultramarine, and finished and circumstanced according to the taste of the young England school. If we analyse the sentiment of the picture it tells no story, we find only an ill-complexioned lady straining herself into and ungraceful attitude. There is power in the picture but it is sadly misdirected. . . .

No. 594. ‘Valentine receiving Sylvia from Proteus,’ W. Hunt. This is one of the eccentricities of the Young England school, in which after the facetious conceptions in impersonation, the most striking feature is the bird’s-eye view of the forest scene, which is intended to be a flat, but yet rises to a very high horizon at the distance of a few yards from the foreground. What is presumed to be the Pre-Raffaellite manner is intense in this picture; but it must be observed there is a qualification, and that is the draperies; these are infinitely better painted than those in the models which this school have set up as their standards of excellence. . . .

No. 651. ‘The Return of the Dove to the Ark,’ J. E. Millais. Two girls, one in green, the other in white, drapery, caressing a dove. These figures are relieved by a perfectly black background, and the whole affects the medieval manner.


This document was scanned/transcribed from the original source.

Copyright © 1999 Thomas J. Tobin.

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