This Exhibition showing at Tate Britain aims to show the connection between the emergence of Photography in 1839 and painting particularly the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites which I have written about before. The Exhibition is split into 9 rooms depicting several themes.
” the invention of photography in 1839 contributed to a period of change for the visual arts in Britain. the development of new materials and techniques influenced painters and photographers who shared ambitions and ideas”. .
Although the Exhibition does concentrate on photography , what attracted me to the exhibition was being able to look anew at all the pre-Raphaelite paintings on display. I found the photographs rather drab affairs in black and white whereas for me the paintings of Turner , Rossetti, Millais and Holman Hunt lit up the exhibition with its dazzling array of colour.
The Tate booklet accompanying the exhibition explains the background to new developments in Science and the arts. ” Mid-nineteenth century innovations in science and the arts became part of intense debate about truth- variously defined as objective observation and individual artistic vision”..
” Painters and photographers moved out of the studio to explore light and other atmospheric effects as well geological subjects landscape and architecture. New photographic materials like glass plate negatives and coated printed papers offered greater accuracy and photography became valuable aid for painters”. . I think this comment by the curators of the exhibition invests photography as an important aid, I disagree I think that pre-Raphaelite painters used the actual landscape and realistic images to create their art. I do not think at this time that photography had such an important role.
William Etty’s disruption portrait is a very useful insight into the split of the free Church from the Church of Scotland . He has painted a lovely rendition of all the clergy at the historic split between the two churches.
Ford Madox Brown an older painter around the Pre -Raphaelite Brotherhood was famous for his painting ‘Work’ but ‘Carrying Corn’ is another very articulated painting showing the landscape and what happens every year in rural settings.
Two French painters Gustave le Gray and George Clausen have also had several of their painting displayed in this Exhibition. William Holman Hunt one of the original members of the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood used a number of religious themes in his art.
William Dyce’s Pegwell bay in Kent captures beautifully the fishing boats and the surrounding landscape. John Everett Millais on of the most important painters of the brotherhood would go and become a famous academic painter in Victorian England. His importance is valued at Tate Britain because there is a statue of him outside the Gallery.
Roger Fenton and Frank Dillon used oriental approbation to portray African and Arab cultures. The British always used these pictures to subvert the culture of these countries and always to depict them in a very Euro centric manner.
Samuel Butler’s Mr Heatherley Holiday Art school with a variety of different instruments in the room shows a Dickensian drawing gallery. The Lady of Shallot was always a favourite with the brotherhood and several artists painted this character from Arthurian legend. Pre-Raphaelites were always concerned to look for inspiration from Legend and heroic deeds particularly related to chivalry and beautiful maidens like the Lady of Shalot or Marianna.
Many of the Pre-Raphaelites turned away from real depictions to subjective inspiration usually subjective idealist though with no reference to material reality. amongst these we can count Julia Margaret Cameron and George Frederick Watts.
” The circle included the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron , painters George Frederick Watts and Dante Gabriel Rossetti”. .
” Together with Watts they developed a newly- intimate form of portraiture , exploring emotional and psychological states”. .
In Life and Landscape the curators suggest that the French painters brought a sense of realism to the art at the time.
” Rural scenes provided common ground for British painters. Their distinctive style derived from French Realism and impressionism which had been introduced by independent galleries”. .
Book illustration particularly used by the Dalziel brothers flourished during the period of Pre-Raphaelite art. ” Photography formed part of a thriving trade in prints illustrated books and journals”. .
Bethan Stevens goes into some detail about the Dalziel Brothers and their printing output.
” The Dalziel brothers – as they were known were responsible for engraving a high proportion of Pre-Raphaelite prints onto wood, nevertheless the Dalziel family were a key institution of the Victorian art World”. .
” Wood engraving had many advantages the blocks were tough and illustrations could be printed in large editions without adverse effects”. .
This last painting by John SingerSergeant an American Painter like Mcneil abbot Whistler still shows while they were working in London with the brotherhood the influence of Pre-Raphaelite art. Jane Morris the wife of William Morris the Revolutionary socialist , printmaker and publisher provided for Rossetti an excellent model for Prosperine. Both Morris and Burne Jones were later additions to the Brotherhood as was Goodall and Henry Wallis with his Chatterton.
Mcneil Whistler was famous for his nocturnes.
This completes my review of Painting with Light which I enjoyed enormously walking from one room to another and soaking up the lush colour and brash paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites. I would recommend anyone who hasn’t seen the exhibition to try and make a visit .It is open until 25th September.
- TATE BOOKLET.
- DITTO PG.34
- THE PRE-RAPHAELITES THE BRITISH MUSEUM . BETHAN STEVENS PG.34.
- DITTO. PG.34