"The Royal Academy of Arts." Morning Chronicle 27,253 (29 Apr. 1854), 5.

excerpt

Holman Hunt and Collins are left to sustain the reputation of the præ-Raphaelites, unaided by their powerful colleague Millais, now an associate of the Academy. Millais himself, perchance, is reserving his strength until another year; or, like the knights of old, he is watching his armour during the period of his noviciate in academical chivalry. His absence from the Exhibition is the more powerfully felt from the unfortunate circumstance that both Hunt and Collins appear to have retrograded during the past year. Their pictures have more of their peculiar mannerism, and less of their intrinsic excellences, than heretofore. This is a turn in their artistic-career much to be lamented. What we had hoped to have seen in their works was a gradual toning down of their peculiarities, and an accompanying advance both in artistic truth and natural feeling. Or, perhaps, we should rather say, that we had hoped to have observed them, gradually but with sure progress, raising their art to the pure verities of nature, and so eventually becoming the most perfect of artists, because the most natural. Unhappily, the præ-Raphaelite spirit, in its own special character, has subjected them to its control; we must, therefore, still anticipate those happy influences of the præ-Raphaelite spirit upon these artists themselves, which it has already realised through their instrumentality upon so many of their brethren. The best of the pictures by the two gentlemen whom we named is No. 508, "The Light of the World," by W. H. Hunt; their least satisfactory work, the other contribution of the same artists, No. 377, "The Awakening Conscience;" this is an absolutely disagreeable picture, and it fails to express its own meaning, either in its general composition or through the agency of its details; the complicated compound shadow in the mirror behind the figures is also a mere piece of intricacy without any good or valuable effect. The single picture exhibited by Mr. Collins, No. 607, is decidedly superior to the "Awakening Conscience" of Hunt; still it might have been worthier of the artist, and of that special position among artists which he occupies.


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Copyright © 1999 Thomas J. Tobin.

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