Rossetti, W[illia]m M[icheal]. "Art News from England." Crayon 2 (28 May 1856), 155-157.
The annual Exhibition of our so-styled National Institution of the Fine Arts, whose basis you must not suppose to be more than moderately National, nor its art more than moderately Fineopened on the 15th instant. It is a poor sight. Spite of the influence which Pre-Raffâelitism and photography have exercised upon our artists in the promotion of greater closeness of study, and completeness of representation, it almost seems as if we grew more and more painfully wanting in aspiration and original energy. Perhaps this result is more apparent than real, however; owing to the increased weariness with which one sees the same kind of thing year after year, dismal in monotony and mediocrity. The real secret of the wretched average of our art may be, that the profession is altogether overstocked with men who have no sort of vocation for it, but adopt it as requiring less education and outlay than one of the learned professions, and being more "genteel" than shopkeeping. The peculiarity which most distinguishes the National Institution this year is, the sprinkling of pictures by two young artists, Messrs. Marks and Rossiter, from Shaksperean scenes and characters, of low humor. These painters hang on to the skirts of Pre-Raffâelitism; but they must substitute brilliant color for staring colors, character for vulgarity, and general faithfulness of aim for mechanical literality of imitation, before they can attain its spirit. . . .
The sculptor Thomas Woolner has returned from the Isle of Wight with his bust of Tennyson done in plaster. That grandest of heads seated on the shoulders of great men of our generation is no easy one to express; and the difficulty is, for the present, enhanced by the undisciplined moustache and beard which hide the noble mouth and the kingly lower jaw. This overgrowth Mr. Woolner has treated as the accidental thing it is, and omitted it altogether. I have not yet seen his work, but have confidence in it à priori. Shortly he is to be engaged on one of the life-sized figures commissioned for enriching the Oxford University Museum, now in course of construction. His choice will probably lie between Bacon and James Watt, and I anticipate that he will settle on the former.
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