[Rossetti, William Michael]. "Fine Arts: The Royal Academy: Domestic Pictures." Spectator 28.1405 (2 Jun. 1855), 575.

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"The Good Harvest of ’54," embodied by Mr. Collins in a young girl carrying a bundle of corn, is too well executed to allow of our being content with the indifference it indicates to beauty; a semi-representative subject of this kind being peculiarly in need of that element, if only to mark its aim at something beyond the mere casual fact. Moreover, the quality of the face is rather that of a mature woman than a child. . . . Mr. Collinson, after an interval of two or three years, reappears with a brace of pictures. "Temptation" is trivial in subject, and even mean in its general impression; but "The Writing Lesson," where a small charity-girl is teaching her father to write "J. Smith" upon a board with a piece of chalk, has sense and life in it. The sedate gravity of the little maid as she calls father’s attention to the neglected dot over the i, and the serious aspect with which he scans its conformation, are quite in the spirit of the theme. The painting is accurate and truthful, yet somewhat wooden. . . .

Præraphaelitism is the generic character of the following three, modified according to what is distinctive in the several painters, each of whom we meet for the first time. "The London Gazette, 1854," by Mr. Barwell, is one of what may be classed as the "Sebastopol Pictures" of the year, and (without prejudice to Mr. Cope’s maturer practice be it said) certainly the best of them. The personages are two women of the working class, who have broken off the getting-up of some linen to read the Gazette; in which the younger has found the death (we may suppose) of her lover, and falls forward, crushed in heart, across her companion’s lap. There are seriousness and well-grounded study in the whole presentment; the expression and action are reserved, yet feeling; and, for the rest, witness the good broad style of design in the girl’s arms, and the analogous qualities in the treatment of her drapery. "The Doubt–Can these dry bones live?" by Mr. Bowler, is a church-yard scene, every detail of which is excellently painted, with a good effect of light transparent through the chestnut-leaves; but, unfortunately, the lady who leans upon the head-stone is a poor unmeaning creature, who might as well be going on a morning-call as questioning Eternity about dry bones. Mr. Luard’s "Church-door," which stands open with a little girl on the threshold bearing a lapfull of holly and other foliage for the decking of the walls, is simple, true, and pretty; the quiet chilly-shaded interior of the church contrasting very well and faithfully with the pale bright sunshine on the hushed glimpse of the outside church-yard. A fourth Præraphaelite is Mr. Wallis; but his "Fireside Reverie," though telling out very strongly in colour, is hardly up to his calibre. He has merely shown us that he can paint; and that we knew before.


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Copyright © 1999 Thomas J. Tobin.

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