Rossetti, W[illia]m M[ichael]. "Art News from England." Crayon 1 (23 May 1855), 327-330.

excerpts

The following are among the principal works [at the Paris Exhibition]:–

. . . Two admirable examples of Anthony. Ford Madox Brown’s "Chaucer at the Court of Edward III.," one of the foremost historic works England has produced on a large scale. . . . Three by Dyce.

. . . I have not yet spoken of the Pre-Raphaelite pictures, which are, to my judgment, the most important of all, as marking an era not only in British, but in European painting, as well as for the intrinsic loftiness of their qualities. Holman Hunt sends three: "The Light of the World," a figure of Christ from the symbolic passage in the Revelation which represents Him as knocking at the door; on the whole, Hunt’s highest work, and one of the first religious pictures in the world, but I fear not likely to be rightly apprehended by foreigners; "Our English Coasts," a small landscape, with an incident of strayed sheep, treated with the most masterly Art, and a truly human intensity of feeling; and "Claudio and Isabella," from "Measure for Measure," which may stand on a par with the Christ for profound and elevated sentiment, and is safer of producing its effect. Millais’s contributions are also three: "The Order of Release," which carried fame by storm at the Academy Exhibition of 1853, and substantially crushed the venomous abuse of Pre-Raphaelitism; "The Return of the Dove to the Ark," a lovely piece of painting and naïve tenderness, but only partially acceptable in relation to its theme; and "Ophelia" drifting to her death, which nothing in Pre-Raphaelitism has surpassed for exquisite profusion and realization of Nature, and for heart-searching pathos. Mr. Collins is the third representative of the school, with his thoroughly conscientious and sincerely felt picture of last year, "A Thought of Bethlehem," where Madame de Chantal is represented visiting a poor woman with her newly-born infant. One may well be curious to know what the Parisian world of Art will think and say of Pre-Raphaelitism–what grins, what shrugs of the shoulders, what sallies–perhaps, what serious thought–possibly what earnest isolated endeavor–it will excite.

. . . Another exhibition. . . is that of pictures and other works of Art contributed for the benefit of our "Patriotic Fund" for the widows and orphans of fighting soldiers and sailors. . . . There is one amateur of genius among all the contributors, an anonymous "Lady of Title," whom the initiated recognize; and one professional artist of genius, Mr. Arthur Hughes–one of the freshest, most youthfully-enjoying, and yet most earnest, of Pre-Raphaelites.

. . . I cannot venture an opinion, with any confidence, as to whether the [Royal Academy Exhibition] will be a good display; but I have seen Millais’s picture, which I incline to pronounce, on the whole, his most wonderful and consummate work. It represents a fireman–in the peculiar helmeted costume familiar to Londoners–rescuing three children from a fire, and restoring them to their mother. The dogged, unbending, yet gentle resoluteness of the man, the perfect joy which floods, as it were, the whole being of the mother, and the three children, the eldest clinging round his deliverer’s neck, and looking back into the conflagration with a kind of terrified, yet curious interest, the second straining out of his arms to leap into her mother’s, and the third, an infant, stretching out to her in captious distress, combine into a noble conception, intensely pathetic, and of an universal appeal. Let us have a few pictures like this, and we shall cease to hear of the triviality of prosaicism of our own everyday life. I shall say little of the flaring crimson of the flame-light on the principal group, contrasting with the shade which is made to fall over the mother’s figure, and the clear dawn-grey out of windows; it is all such as Millais, alone, perhaps, in the world of Art, can paint, such as those who have read of Pre-Raphaelitism, will form each his own notion of, but of which words cannot give any defined image. As I was looking at this picture, on what we call the "Sending-in Day," I saw a letter just received from Holman Hunt, to announce that he has been disappointed in sending over his intended contribution to the gallery. Assuredly a lamentable loss; but he had the field to himself last year, and Millais will have it this year.

. . . I happened the other evening to be present at the drawing-class which John Ruskin has undertaken, at a "Working Men’s College," recently established by the Rev. F. D. Maurice, and other men of practical religion. The plan been in operation about six months; the class remaining open every evening, and attended once in the week by Mr. Ruskin, and Mr. Lowes Dickinson, an artist who more particularly superintends the study of color, and once by Mr. Dante Rossetti, who teaches figure-drawing. I found the pupils occupied, in several instances, in drawing direct from Nature, such as branches of trees; in others from casts of leaves, &c., after Nature; some from balls, or other simple forms, to begin with; hardly any from mere copies of objects. I believe that most of the class are accurately to be called "Working Men," and had no knowledge whatever of drawing before they commenced at the College. Their progress is certainly remarkable, and even surprising: the evidence of fidelity and perception is frequent, and some have attained a skill really great. Mr. Rossetti’s class has also made rapid advances in its still more difficult study; the principle of drawing heads from the life having been enforced at the very commencement of the studies.

Wm. M. Rossetti

London, April 23, 1855


This document was scanned/transcribed from the original source.

Copyright © 1999 Thomas J. Tobin.

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