"Exhibition of the Royal AcademyPrivate View." London Times 1.22,358 (3 May 1856): 9-10. Excerpt.
The Pre-Raphaelites deserve to be noticed by themselves. Millais contributes several works of very various merit. The best is "Autumn Leaves'[sic]-girls burning these leaves; and here may at once be seen the advance made in his style. Compare the leaves with the straw in the Ark of several years ago. There every straw was painted with a minuteness which it was painful to follow; here the leaves are given with great truth and force, but the treatment is much more general and the work more rapid. Throughout all his works the same increased rapidity of touch may be seen; but in all of them will not be seen colour so good as in this work or expression so true. All his subjects this year are children, and he has caught their little ways and looks with wonderful ease. "Portrait of a Gentleman" is capital; "the Blind Girl" is painful; "the Child of the Regiment" is sweet; "the Peace" is very bad and very good. The textures here are rendered with great skill; the children, too, are very lifelikeobserve the right arm of the girl in black; the dog too is good, with its one eye turning round to look at the spectator; but the principal figures are very bad, and the whole meaning poor. The symbols of the lion and bear, and so forth, are very puerile; the lady is holding on we know hot how, and the gentleman is shaking her hadn we know not why. Mr. Holman Hunt's picture of "the Scapegoat" is disappointing, although there is no doubt much power in it. The distance is given well, and the colour is very good, the mountains are most lovingly painted; in the eye of the scapegoat, too, as it comes to drink of the waters of the Dead Sea, there is a profound feeling, but altogether the scene is not impressive, and were it not for the title annexed it would be rather difficult to divine the nature of the subject. A much more successful work of Pre-Raphaelite art is one near it by a young artist named Burton. The background and all the accessories of the picture are redered with great force and beautythe stone wall and the trees beyond are very fine. The story, too, is well told, of the quarrel which arose out of the gambling, and how the young cavalier was wounded, how he aimed at his adversary, and, reeling, only struck the tree which divides the canvass [sic] in two, the blow breaking his sword; how, having struck and broken his sword, he reeled round to the other side of the tree and there lay; how he lay so long that the spider made her web round his sword, and the morning dew gathered on it, and the butterflyemblem of lifelighted on the blade which has well night taken away a life; how his ladye-love [sic] walked forth through the wood with her Puritan lover, and found him lying faint, and took him in her arms and staunched his wounds, while her Puritan friend looked grimly on calm and bitter as deathhis lips closely held, and his hand behind him clenched, as if he could scarce contain his emotions. All this is told in very fine colour. Another rather good specimen of the school is the "Eve of St. Agnes," by A. Hughes. It is three pictures in one, the story being taken from Keats's poem of the same name, in which he gave full expression to all his love for intense colour. Mr. Hughes has chosen a rich purple in contrast with green in his medium; in his first picture there are two lightsmoonshine and lamplight from the house; in his second only moonshine; and in the third only lamplight. The colour is treated in each of these three relations, and is so striking in all of them that the attention is, perhaps, taken too much from the subject to dwell on its gorgeous realization. The middle compartment, where there is moonlight only, is perhaps the best, but all three are good. As a contrast to this may be mentioned a very different work, but with a merit of its own"Toothache in the Middle Ages," by Mr. Marks, in which there is a good deal of hmour expressed in a hard dry way.