Rossetti, W[illia]m M[icheal]. "Art News from England. Letter XV." Crayon 2 (22 Jul. 1856), 209-212.


The artistic event of this is the artistic event of the year–the opening of the Royal Academy Exhibition. It is a cheering sight for pre-Raphaelites; and I should hope for the public, whom these have leavened. Pre-Raphaelitism may now be said to have pretty well won the day. It has its recognized champions–men tolerably strong in themselves; it rallies to itself almost every new-comer having a gleam of originality or power; it compels reluctant painters, who had achieved ringing reputations before pre-Raphaelitism was a name known among men, to confess its influence, more or less, in their own doings; in fine, its mark is everywhere, and it may be said to have changed the whole face of the Exhibition. I need scarcely add that, this being the state of the case, I rate the year’s collection very high, at the same time, the merit is chiefly a merit of diffusion, and of more earnest purpose and thought throughout; the works of leading men, which rank very prominently among the respective author’s own performances, being comparatively few.

Last month I spoke of the contributions of the chief pre-Raphaelite exhibitors; and I shall now pick out for specification a few others of note. The names I mention will not be always those of the men likely to be best known in America; but they are names which, where not distinguished already, ought to be and, I hope, in time will be. . . .

W. L. Windus, Burd Helen (from an old Scottish ballad): Helen, fearing the desertion of her lover, runs by the side of his horse as his foot-page. A most touching and fascinating chef d’œuvre of the new school; full of pathos, dramatic sincerity, and intense study. . . . Inchbold, Mid Spring. A delicious landscape, almost untraceable in its minuteness of observation and rendering. The season is indicated by one of its most enchanting sights–a forest bank in dewy morning, massed with countless blooms of the wild hyacinth. H. Wallis, Chatterton–lying dead in his garret, self-poisoned, after tearing up his manuscripts: another of the New School, and of really high art; imagined and expressed with entire faithfulness. . . . Burton, The Cavalier and Puritan. A cavalier, mortally wounded in a duel, is discovered in the forest by a Puritan lady. This picture, full of the more obvious qualities of pre-Raphaelitism, and almost the first work of its author, has excited a great sensation, and is a bout as talented in its line as it can well be; but that line is not a line of growth. . . . A. Hughes, April Love, and The Eve of St. Agnes. I think I made some allusions to these last month in connection with Hunt’s and Millais’s pictures. The "Eve of St. Agnes," now that I see it completed in effect, strikes me as being, after Millais’ "Autumn Leaves," the most lovely piece of highly-wrought color-effect in the exhibition. . . . Woolner, Love (small figure in marble). Perhaps the most finished and perfect work of sculpture, as an expression simply of the feeling for the beautiful, which I have seen from an Englishman for some while. . . .

Besides the Academy Exhibition, that of the old Water-color Society has opened within these few weeks. . . . If genuineness is deficient here, it is the great characteristic of a series of Oriental pictures and sketches which the artist, Mr. Thomas Seddon, who accompanied Mr. Holman Hunt in his recent tour, has collected together for inspection. The principal painting, the "Valley of Jehoshaphat, and part of Jerusalem," is evidently as truth-telling as a photograph, and the same quality, combined with many refinements of sound and progressive art, distinguishes the entire series. These works are open to inspection in the artist’s studio. A plan which possesses various advantages over that of sending to a public exhibition (especially where the space is so limited, and the treatment generally so arbitrary, as in our Royal Academy), and one which seems not unlikely to rise in favor among us.

This document was scanned/transcribed from the original source.

Copyright © 1999 Thomas J. Tobin.

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