Monday, March 9, 2009

Victorian Painting Exhibition

The Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington is currently hosting a fine collection of 60 Victorian paintings from the Royal Holloway Collection at the University of London. The exhibition will continue through April 12.

The paintings include rural genre, animal painting, marines, landscapes, and historical scenes, like the The Babylonian Marriage Market, 1875, by Edwin Longsden Long (1829-1891). Many of the paintings are driven by storytelling and an awareness of the social conditions of Victorian Britain.

When we visited the exhibit, museum goers were electrified by the narrative aspect of the paintings to the extent that spontaneous conversations sprung up between delighted strangers. The Railway Station by William Powell Frith (1819-1909), above, is so full of as many intriguing subplots as a novel by Dickens. I never appreciated this painting from small reproductions. Bring your kids; they will love the stories.

The April issue of Fine Art Connoisseur has a feature article on the collection written by Tim Barringer.

The exhibit will tour extensively through the USA:
The Yale Center for British Art, May 7 - July 26, 2009.
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, August 15 - October 25, 2009.
Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach FL, March 12 - April 18, 2010.
Cantor Center for the Visual Arts, Palo Alto, CA, May 19 - July 25, 2010.
Fresno Metropolitan Museum, CA, November 20, 2010- January 30, 2011.
Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA, February 18 - May 1, 2010.

Charley Parker of the blog "Lines and Colors" also covered the show: link.


Wil Freeborn said...

There's been a good series about Victorian paintings on here in the UK hosted by Jeremy Paxman. Its was quite interesting as he talks about how very popular paintings were, almost like cinema today

Erik Bongers said...

Now there's a challenge.
Creating 'serious' art that can also be appreciated by children. Of course, JG has always walked that tightrope, but it seems most artist avoid crossing that line because of the rist of being stigmatized.

Also, too direct 'narratives' in a painting (I prefer the less fancy word 'stories' than 'narratives') are nowadays considered childish.

James Gurney said...

Erik: I don't know why some people still have a lingering disregard for storytelling in painting, while they love a tale well told in a film (as Wil suggests) or a novel.

A good story is always compelling. The mainstream critics are coming around; there's no longer much of a stigma--even the New Yorker is now writing about emerging narrative artists.

As far as children are concerned, the paintings in this show are accessible on many different levels. While kids can respond immediately to the universal appeal of pathos, drama, and lyricism, there is much for sophisticates looking for more subtle levels of meaning, especially in the historical paintings.

Anonymous said...

It just so happened I came across this old part of the blog but I was really schocked, I was in NewWalk museum in Liecster (I moved here from Ireland) and saw this painting up close today, of the train station, I studied it closely and could still see the underpainting and the grid. Theres also fantastic details that we can't see unless we go right up to the painting such as pencil drawn outlines of details in the scaffolding of the station.