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  • The Golden Age of Victorian Watercolors
    has no such overt reference to death taking a rosy cheeked youth as its subject The substitution of a living body for a memento mori signals an alternate interpretation to the Arcadian genre drawn from contemporary nineteenth century art criticism This painting was likely intended to accompany a poem written by Armfield titled Baiae which opens with the lines Et Ego in Arcadia An inscription illustration to poem written on the back of the painting makes this almost certain The poem was published in 1914 in a book titled The Hanging Garden and Other Verse but did not include this illustration Baia e refers to an ancient seaside resort in the Campania region of Southern Italy Legendary for its ancient decadence and hedonism Baiae was the subject of other nineteenth century poets such as John Addington Symonds who employed it as a setting for the eroticized renaissance of the beautiful male body For Symonds this male body epitomized by mythological figures was the ultimate vehicle of discovery for the inner self and its sexuality The homoerotic themes in both Symonds and Armfield s work stem back to an essay 1867 by Walter Pater on the eighteenth century philosopher art historian Johann Winckelmann In this essay likewise titled Et Ergo in Arcadia Fui Pater championed Winckelmann not only for his rediscovery of the principles of classical art but also for Winckelmann s emphasis on personally reliving and recreating the Greek ideal For Pater Winckelmann s emphasis on experiencing antiquity provided the model for the modern art historian It was not enough simply to know about classical works of art one also had to internalize the philosophy of the ancients to fully comprehend their aesthetic ideals The role of the male body was paramount in this recreation of the classical past Winckelmann

    Original URL path: http://arthistory.wisc.edu/exhibitions/victorian-watercolors/armfield-even-arcadia.html (2015-11-11)
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  • The Golden Age of Victorian Watercolors
    robes create an impression of movement calling the viewer s attention to each of the illustration s figures in turn and highlighting the painting s symbolic references to fertility and inspiration A poet as well as an artist William Blake engraved or painted images related to a wide variety of both his own and others verse However Blake s work was not always well received during his lifetime many contemporaries viewed him as a madman Critics attacked his work on aesthetic grounds and lampooned the artist s belief in his own divine inspiration Motivated in part by the fact that Blake s public persona had lost him an extended illustration project the sculptor John Flaxman commissioned Blake to illustrate a volume of Thomas Gray s poetry for Flaxman s wife Ann sometime around 1797 Ode on the Spring and the Descent of Odin also in the exhibition each illustrate different poems in the same commissioned work To create the collected volume Blake took apart a copy of Gray s Poems inserting the book s pages into sheets of cream drawing paper A close look at the fourth line of Ode on the Spring reveals a tiny X written in pencil to the left of the printed text This notation pinpoints the passage Blake felt related most directly to his illustration This painting is a prime example of Blake s unique creative vision and his ability to push visual form in unexpected directions The poetic stanza appeals to all of the reader s senses describing dawn arriving and illuminating the early flowers of the new season Gray s descriptive words evoke the harmony of morning birdsong the cool feeling of the wind and the sweet fragrance of the air These non visual references pose a challenge to a project of illustration

    Original URL path: http://arthistory.wisc.edu/exhibitions/victorian-watercolors/blake-poems-gray-spring.html (2015-11-11)
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  • The Golden Age of Victorian Watercolors
    the Spring also in the exhibition Key among these similarities are Blake s strong outlines and washy layers of watercolor Blake uses visible brushstrokes in both illustrations and allows the unpainted white of the drawing paper to shine through rather than using body color or white ink to produce the painting s highlights Blake s management of form and color plays a key role in drawing the viewer s eye back and forth between the poetic text and its visual representation Though Odin s back is to the viewer his aggressive posture suggests a battle of wills between him and the Prophetess Blake places Grey s stanzas at the central meeting point of the figures gazes a zone of particular visual tension The overall inconsistency of detail the ambiguity of the light source and the unrealistic positioning of horse and man contribute to the sense of otherworldly space Such eeriness is called into further relief by the strong diagonal lines that force the eye to rove constantly across the page While the swirling lines and pastel colors in Ode on the Spring suggest an ethereal fantasy world this painting s grim tones and indistinct background evoke an eerier realm The highlights on the horse s neck and the shading of Odin s shield suggest a light source originating from the upper right and yet the man s right foot casts a shadow in the same direction Neither his left foot nor his sword generates any shadow at all While the armed man appears to stand upon a flat plane established by a gray watercolor outline and the meeting of differently shaded spaces the division between ground and air becomes unclear toward outer edges of the page This confusing dynamic continues toward the lower right corner of the page as the

    Original URL path: http://arthistory.wisc.edu/exhibitions/victorian-watercolors/blake-poems-gray-odin.html (2015-11-11)
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  • The Golden Age of Victorian Watercolors
    more standard on gallery walls The long low ivy covered ruined walls of Godstow God s Place Nunnery call to mind British history and speak to the Pre Raphaelite fascination with both medieval and modern Britain Sited along the Thames roughly 2 5 miles northwest of Oxford Fig 1 the twelfth century Godstow Nunnery is best known as the burial place of a king s mistress Rosamund Clifford or Fair Rosamund d 1176 was allegedly murdered by King Henry II s jealous wife Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine Around 1540 the nunnery was dissolved by the orders of King Henry VIII and the site was in ruins by the early eighteenth century In their quest to recover and celebrate the British legendary past artists in Pre Raphaelite circles created a number of portrayals of Fair Rosamund in the early 1860s she was painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti Fig 2 1861 and Edward Coley Burne Jones 1862 while the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne retold her story in a verse drama 1860 Familiarity with these works may have conditioned Boyce s choice of scenery on his painting expedition to Oxford The ruined nunnery walls Fig 3 also provide a contrast to the more modern lock that cuts through the foreground First constructed in 1790 Godstow Lock allows boats to bypass the fast moving weir that makes up the main body of the Thames in this vicinity The wooden lock gate pictured at the center of the painting regulates the level of water in the lock Evidently the two men whose heads in bright caps peep out from the sunken lock have just descended through the lock gate to a lower water level Neither these men nor the seated boy in the foreground take notice of the nunnery ruins The repetition of horizontals the

    Original URL path: http://arthistory.wisc.edu/exhibitions/victorian-watercolors/boyce-godstow-nunnery.html (2015-11-11)
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  • The Golden Age of Victorian Watercolors
    gained control of England occurred nearby Albert Goodwin s Hastings at Sunset 1885 also in the exhibition portrays the view out over the town from above with the cliffs and the ocean in the distance The Hastings fishermen were characterized in guidebooks and literature as different from the rest of the local population in dress behavior and even in facial features The history of Hastings as a smuggling port contributed to the reputation of the fishermen as clever daring and reckless They were recommended as an artistic subject throughout the century as 30 years after Cox s work a writer about Hastings commented what picturesque groups our fishermen make But this writer also noted that they are rather shy of being observed however and don t like to be sketched You must look at them carelessly and keep your pencils out of sight if you want to see them at their ease This type of language more appropriate to describing the portrayal of animal subjects reminds us that writing by and for middle class urban Victorians often takes on an ethnographic tone when dealing with people of different social and cultural backgrounds from their own It is not so much a question of whether the fishermen actually were different in appearance but rather of the fact that they were repeatedly described as being so which in turn gave rise to their popularity as an artistic subject The practice of selling fish on the beach was also thought to make a good subject You may see a dozen pictures in a day if you set yourself to study the Hastings fish market joyous moving rollicking as the case may be observed a travel guide As noted the Hastings Fish Market sold by Dutch auction meaning that the seller dumped out a basket from a boat and shouted out a price for a catch then gradually lowered it until a fishmonger claimed it A writer specifically recommended this sight for tourists A Dutch auction is an animated scene and upon such occasions as these the fishermen in their huge top boots oilskin petticoats and slouch hats are to be studied to the best advantage In 1890 The Graphic included an illustration of this custom at Hastings Fig 2 The fish on display vary widely representing typical market fish for the region To the right in the foreground is a thornback ray directly to its left is an example of the shark family given its underslung mouth possibly a spurdog or huss Behind the shark is a flatfish most likely a plaice The red fish are red mullet while the row of fish in front of them are possibly bass Further into the composition the fish near the half barrel might be cod David Cox was one of the most prominent of the early nineteenth century English watercolorists influential in establishing watercolor as a pre eminent form in the country Born in Birmingham he trained first as a theatrical scene painter but took

    Original URL path: http://arthistory.wisc.edu/exhibitions/victorian-watercolors/cox-fish-market.html (2015-11-11)
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  • The Golden Age of Victorian Watercolors
    s painting Herod s Feast Crane s use of heavy dark and opaque watercolors for the horses river and distant background creates a distinct contrast with the luminous and transparent watercolors used to portray the women and flowers Unlike Pluto s black horses red cloak and dark breastplate and leg guards all of the women including Persephone are dressed in translucent white emphasizing their pure virginal status With these light and dark contrasts could Crane be highlighting the battling characteristics between the male and female genders What other elements of the composition could symbolize the Victorian ideals of femininity and masculinity Walter Crane born in Liverpool on August 15 1845 was encouraged by his father Thomas Crane a miniaturist painter to pursue an artistic career After illustrating Lord Alfred Tennyson s The Lady of Shalott Crane was engaged as an engraver for a few years until he developed his drawing and illustration skills and began cultivating his own style of children s book illustrations and paintings His painting The Lady of Shalott Fig 2 was accepted for the Royal Academy exhibition in 1862 and despite the painting s positive reception Crane had only one other work exhibited at the Royal Academy and that more than ten years later As a result Crane primarily exhibited his paintings and watercolors at other galleries such as the Dudley Grosvenor and New Galleries Crane appropriated the painting style of the Pre Raphaelites particularly the work of Edward Burne Jones In addition Walter Crane was a supporter of the applied arts and crafts movement designing wallpaper patterns for Jeffrey Co from 1875 and pottery for Pilkington and Wedgwood Fig 3 With William Holman Hunt one of the original Pre Raphaelite painters Crane advocated for a new society that unlike the Royal Academy promoted the applied

    Original URL path: http://arthistory.wisc.edu/exhibitions/victorian-watercolors/crane-fate-persephone.html (2015-11-11)
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  • The Golden Age of Victorian Watercolors
    to end The narrative of this painting and the identity of its characters is difficult to unravel Because of its creation within the Bethlehem mental asylum no primary sources are available to document its creation Produced in 1854 this painting was likely executed in conjunction with Dadd s ongoing series sketches to illustrate the passions These works which depicted such emotions as love or treachery show a heightened interested in human psychology and physiognomy Dadd s Settling the Disputed Point takes a similar interest in the emotional expression of its characters ranging from the aggressive ire of the central figures to pensive gaze of the trysting woman Settling the Disputed Point was likely produced for the hospital superintendent William Charles Hood who collected nearly all of the paintings Dadd produced in the Asylum Patients in mid century mental hospitals were often encouraged to create drawings and watercolors as a form of therapy It was believed that allowing patients to practice their obsessions through creative acts might ultimately lead to their cure and it possible Dadd s paintings were made under this impetus Dadd s painting also draws parallels between life inside and outside the asylum While this work is simple genre scene numerous details seem to pathologize its characters Most noticeably the figures conducting the argument display exaggerated physiognomy akin to contemporary nineteenth century portraits of the insane Such portraits were frequently produced as diagnostic tools to assist the study and recognition of mental disease It was believed that repetition of certain emotions by the patient produced permanent physiognomic markers which could be identified by a trained physician One such study Alexander Morison s Physiognomy of Mental Diseases 1840 was made from studies of patients at Bethlehem Hospital shortly after Dadd s arrival Dadd was familiar with this work and

    Original URL path: http://arthistory.wisc.edu/exhibitions/victorian-watercolors/dadd-settling-disputed.html (2015-11-11)
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  • The Golden Age of Victorian Watercolors
    Victorian period with other notable fairy painters including Richard Dadd Joseph Noel Paton and John Anster Fitzgerald whose Intruder features in this exhibition While Doyle notably produced a large number of fairy paintings the figures mounted on rabbits may be inspired by an earlier work of Edwin Landseer Scene from A Midsummer Night s Dream Titania and Bottom 1848 51 Fig 1 which had been commissioned for a Shakespearean room in a London home and had been praised by Queen Victoria Richard was the son of John Doyle the notable political cartoonist known as HB He gained his artistic training from his father and similarly began his career working for a print publication Doyle s design of the cover of the illustrated satirical serial publication Punch Fig 2 for which he contributed weekly drawings demonstrated his early interest in fantastical creatures such as elves and fairies Doyle left Punch in 1850 due to its increasing anti Catholic sentiments with which he did not agree and which he felt he could no longer mitigate Although he continued to illustrate works by William Makepeace Thackeray another contributor to Punch and author of the novel Vanity Fair as well as the Christmas books by Charles Dickens he was not as prominent or prolific as during his Punch years By 1868 Doyle returned to his early childhood sketches and interest in fairies as a new direction working up previous drawings and creating new ones to develop into exhibition quality watercolors of which this work is an example In 1870 Doyle published In Fairyland Fig 3 see exhibition display case This work was a collaborative project with poet William Allingham husband of Helen Allingham the noted watercolor painter of cottage scenes whose work Cottage Near Pinner is also featured in this exhibition In Fairyland included

    Original URL path: http://arthistory.wisc.edu/exhibitions/victorian-watercolors/doyle-elves.html (2015-11-11)
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