Monday, April 13, 2009

Pre-Raphaelite impermanence

[William Holman Hunt, The Scapegoat, 1854-6]

[Jerome Buckley, in The Victorian Temper: A Study in Literary Culture (1951):]

Most of the Pre-Raphaelites worked patiently with a medium over which they had little technical control; they painted, repainted, and overpainted layer upon layer of pigment; and in so doing they frequently altered their whole design after a long-pondered picture had been well begun. By blending a slow-drying varnish into their oils, they were able to match colors over protracted periods during which they could proceed deliberately with their innumerable revisions. They paid little heed to the fact that, with the darkening of the resin mixed into the very colors, their pictures so produced would eventually deteriorate beyond reclaim; for they were enabled by slow painting to attain, for a time at least, the illusion of a carefully transcribed reality.


Vance Maverick said...

Do you buy the climactic claim there -- Buckley's attempt to specify the prize for which they strove? I don't know the Pre-R's as well as I ought, but all I've seen (reproductions only, to be sure) has been highly artificial: as here the strange mix of the static and dynamic, the torqued and the lax, in the pose.

Mark Scroggins said...

I wonder if he isn't channeling Ruskin, cause it's precisely what JR claimed for them -- the minute & precise transcription of reality. Ah, the prose -- well, that was back when critics really *wrote* their books, wasn't it?