- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

The Redemption of the Pre-Raphaelites

The top-selling image at the museum bookstore of London’s Tate Britain is of a young woman floating on her back in a quiet river. Heavy-lidded eyes stare emptily upwards, lips are parted in confusion, and her partially submerged arms are open as if in benediction. The slender body is buoyed by her flowing gown, the sparkling embroidery of which is outdone only by an iridescent profusion of nature, with flowers of every color floating in the water and lush green vegetation insistently crowding at her from all sides. This, of course, is Ophelia, driven to madness and then death in Hamlet, as painted by John Everett Millais in the early 1850s.

[1]

From the time Millais and a group of like-minded artists—including William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti—formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) in London in 1848, opinion about them has been sharply divided. Why they are loved is obvious. The brilliant colors, sharp realism, romantic themes, and accessible narratives are the stuff that produces blockbuster exhibitions whenever they appear in Britain or America. A current exhibition at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, entitled “Truth and Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Old Masters,” will be no exception, if opening weekend crowds were any indication.

As the name “Pre-Raphaelite” indicates, Rossetti, Hunt, Millais, and their confrères rejected the school of painting then dominant. They felt the compositional and stylistic rules laid down by the Royal Academy of Arts in England produced artificiality and staleness and instead found their inspiration by reaching back past Raphael’s successors to the art of medieval Europe. Academy painting in England had become visually muddy, and the PRB was drawn to the sharp lines of medieval paintings and illuminated manuscripts and the rich, bright colors of early Netherlandish masters. They also eschewed the themes from classical Greek and Roman mythology so favored during and after the Renaissance, choosing instead medieval literary themes, whether directly from the original sources or mediated by later English poets, accenting their paintings with heraldic and Christian iconographic symbolism.

Advertisement

An exhibition like the one at the Legion of Honor allows the visitor to glimpse the all-encompassing ambition of the Pre-Raphaelites. In addition to the many paintings, one sees their elaborately illustrated books (including an illuminated edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales), fabrics by William Morris, and stained glass that was specially restored in preparation for this viewing. Some were respected poets in their own right, and as the displayed original copies of their short-lived journal, The Germ, indicate, their original mission included criticism as well as creative work.

One’s skeptical antennae should perk up whenever a museum exhibition is billed as a “dialogue”—that much-abused word. Certainly, old works speak and later artists respond. The problem with calling such displays a dialogue is that all too often there is no evidence that the more modern artists are actually listening to the older ones. And as always, the older work never has a chance to talk back, leaving the final word to the last on the scene. Of late, the Legion of Honor, which has as its primary ambit non-modern European art, has subjected museum-goers to “dialogues” in which post-modern oddities are scattered throughout the halls of the museum’s fine permanent collection. At such moments, one wishes that one really could hear the old works “dialogue” back, just once. These distractions were the brainchildren of director Max Hollein, who was tapped this year to be the new director of New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York’s loss is San Francisco’s gain, one supposes, at least as far as such things go.

♦♦♦

But let us leave off from old wounds and accentuate the delightful. In this case, “Truth and Beauty” is brilliantly conceived by curator Melissa Buron, who also edited the fine exhibition catalog [2]. It is a worthy project because there is a genuine dialogue to chronicle. Not only were the Pre-Raphaelites deeply influenced by the types of works mixed into this exhibition, they also were avoiding a mere medieval revival. They sought, rather, a contemporary artistic movement influenced by a return to medieval sources for inspiration. The distinction is crucial, and it shows in their work. The Pre-Raphaelites listened, they responded, and then they clearly returned to the old masters to listen yet again. The pairings of older and newer works lucidly demonstrate what is intended, and what is more than that, the mix enhances the experience of viewing both sets of works.

A journey through the PRB’s body of work is likely to elicit the response: “Oh, I’ve seen that before.” Because of their illustrations for well-loved books and because their art is used in textbooks and web pages discussing literature (the Pre-Raphaelites loved to depict scenes from Shakespeare, Dante, Boccaccio, Keats, and Tennyson, among others) these paintings penetrate the popular subconscious of the English-speaking world like few others. As individuals, the artists themselves are not household names in the way that say, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Monet, or Picasso are, and yet in their day, the PRB shrewdly made the most of their talents.

While much of their oeuvre was a conscious reaction against the dehumanizing effects of the Industrial Revolution in England, they were not afraid to use innovative manufacturing and distribution techniques to spread their work through inexpensive prints and book illustrations, with some becoming quite wealthy in the process. They sent their more famous individual paintings on extensive tours where the curious middle classes could pay a modest fee to sit and gaze at these works for a time. William Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World, depicting Christ knocking at a closed door, was for some time believed to be the most viewed painting in history, having been seen by an estimated seven million viewers worldwide. Millais was granted a rare hereditary peerage and ended his life as president of the same Royal Academy that he began his career famously rejecting.

An exhibition like this, containing representative works that stretch from the movement’s birth in 1848 to its end at the turn of the 20th century, can give clues to why the Pre-Raphaelites came to be despised when artistic fashions shifted. Pre-Raphaelite art has a reputation for descending into sentimental kitsch and for wallowing in nostalgia for a time that never was. There is furthermore a perception, looking at these paintings in reproduction, of sensuousness bordering on cheap eroticism, reliably clothed as the figures may be. Given the medieval emphasis on restraint of passion, the contradiction can seem at best to be a failure to understand the original medieval sources, whether spiritually or aesthetically, and at worst to border on cruel parody. Viewing the paintings themselves, however, one is humbled and taken aback at how unfair such presuppositions can be. Even in scenes ripe with sexual tension, such as Rossetti’s Paolo and Francesca da Rimini or his Bocca Baciata (Lips That Have Been Kissed), the paintings actually have a surprising emotional restraint.

Some have postulated that the precipitous decline in the reputation of the Pre-Raphaelites was brought about by the brutality of the First World War. No one, according to this line of thought, could experience such devastation and go back to painting romanticized scenes from Shakespeare and Tennyson. This is doubtless at least partly true. The Great War seems to have brought an end to a certain kind of British cultural self-confidence, and in that milieu, it wouldn’t be such a leap to come to believe that an artistic path leading to dissonance and fragmentation (something that had begun on the continent long before the trenches were dug and the mustard gas was released), was the correct and inevitable one after all.

♦♦♦

By the time of a Tate retrospective in 1984, Britain’s liberal magazine the New Statesman found political reasons to sniff at the PRB’s resurgent popularity, calling it a baneful byproduct of “Mrs. Thatcher’s Neo-Victorian Age.” Modern curators prefer to try to defang such criticism by emphasizing the rebellious aspects of the movement—hence a more recent Tate exhibition billing them as the “Victorian Avant-Garde.” The transgressive behavior of some—especially Rossetti, who seems to have had problems finding a model whom he didn’t want to turn into a mistress—helpfully lays down some cover fire. You can’t really win today, though: the retroactive reach of #MeToo has caught up with the Pre-Raphaelites, with John William Waterhouse’s rather erotic portrayal of Hylas and the Nymphs removed for a time from its spot in the Manchester Art Gallery, ostensibly to provoke a “conversation” (another much-abused word) about artistic portrayals of women and their bodies.

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, an avid collector of Pre-Raphaelite art, remarked in a documentary some years ago that for his parents’ generation, there was no better way to reduce a polite English dinner party to sputtering contempt than mentioning these artists—they were ranked with Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals in their perceived lowbrow vulgarity. At the time of the 2012 Tate retrospective, a Guardian reviewer, talking to a collector of Victorian art, one of whose works had been borrowed for the exhibition, poked at the sore spot a bit, pointing out that Victorian art hasn’t always been fashionable. The collector’s response was telling: “Yes. But when people say they hate Victorian art, you have to ask: what is it they’re hating? They’re hating themselves, because they’re hating the stuff of which we’re made. Most middle-class people in Britain still live in Victorian houses. [The Victorians] gave us all sorts of things we take for granted.” Indeed.

One wonders whether the Pre-Raphaelite movement came to be considered vulgar not because of its tendency toward the maudlin, but because it didn’t go where the arc of history supposedly dictates. The Pre-Raphaelites’ real crime may be that they were quintessentially British. Going their own eccentric way, they forged a parallel artistic path that had only a passing relationship to, say, the deliberately brutal realism going on in France.

While Courbet was detailing female pudenda in his The Origin of the World in the 1860s, Hunt was painting one of the more moving works in the San Francisco exhibition, The Birthday, a portrait of his wife in which he lavishes palpable adoration on individual strands of her hair and on details of her dress and shawl. By 1888, Van Gogh and Gauguin were already long past Impressionism and hard at Post-Impressionism, but Pre-Raphaelite art only kept becoming more of what it already was—realistic, symbolic, spiritual, romantic, and medieval, as brilliantly summed up that year in John William Waterhouse’s exquisite The Lady of Shalott, depicting the penultimate scene in Tennyson’s poem in which the lady voyages alone, singing, down the river to Camelot.

The Lady of Shalott, William Holman Hunt

Owing to its place of prominence in the Tate, the Waterhouse image of the Lady of Shalott is the most famous of the many Pre-Raphaelite depictions of that poem. The San Francisco exhibition has, however, what is arguably a more significant Lady of Shalott. This massive canvas by William Holman Hunt is considered the final major Pre-Raphaelite work: a visual recapitulation of the entire movement, with its idealistic realism, its moral typology, and its mix of classical, Arthurian, and Christian iconographic references and symbolism. For keepers of conventional art history timelines, it can be a bit disorienting to learn that it was not completed and put on exhibition until 1905. By then, Picasso was already at work. His first works pointing toward cubism were about to appear, and the near disappearance of representational art itself as a vital artistic tradition was not far behind.

Unlike that of Marx, whose Communist Manifesto also appeared (albeit to scant notice) in 1848, the PRB’s response to the Industrial Revolution was to look back to a time long before the “dark Satanic Mills” came to England. Their consideration of the Middle Ages alerted them to the fact that something was dreadfully wrong, and it seems to have been their belief that bringing truth and beauty into a smoke-laden and dehumanizing world could lead to the radical rediscovery of a more just and communitarian life.

Still, there is something missing with the Pre-Raphaelites. Perhaps they mistook, in part, the accidents of medieval Europe for its substance. Perhaps they were therefore never able to plumb it to depths that a creative, ongoing answer to the rising power of unrestrained capitalism would require. It is hard not to wonder whether there was one last door that they saw but didn’t open—or one that their time and culture prevented them from discerning at all. This possible gateway to a lively counterweight tradition, one embracing the best of Christendom’s past, might have continued to run parallel to a 20th-century history of art in which a dismantling of that past has held sway. Reflecting on their work, there is joy that these few at least tried—but also no small sense of loss for what might have been.

Bradley Anderson writes from San Francisco, California.

16 Comments (Open | Close)

16 Comments To "The Redemption of the Pre-Raphaelites"

#1 Comment By mrscracker On September 26, 2018 @ 9:59 am

“It has a reputation for descending into sentimental kitsch, but a revival proves this 19th century art is anything but.”
************

Kitsch maybe, but I never thought of the Pre-Raphaelites as sentimental. I thought they were more of a reaction against middleclass Victorian mores & sentimentality. If anything they seem self consciously preoccupied with eroticism & decadence.

I think the paintings would work better as book illustrations or gift cards. Up close in a gallery they appear massive & lurid.
But I do appreciate the attention given to detail, especially depicting Nature. And the literary subject matter.

To each his own, but I saw a Pre-Raphaelite exhibit in DC a few years ago & after all that over-wroughtness it was a relief to step into the next gallery room & wash my eyes out with Winslow Homer.
🙂

#2 Comment By JonW On September 26, 2018 @ 10:17 am

An excellent review of an important exhibition which I will miss as I live on the other coast. The PRB had a very important advocate in the name of John Ruskin who was Great Britain’s most noted art theorist and critic of the time and whose writing had a deep influence on generations of America’s landscape painters.

It might be worthy to note that artists never create in a vacuum and that the PRB had its predecessor in Rome: The predominantly German painters of the Lukasbund better known as the Nazarenes among who were Franz Pforr, Theodor Rehbenitz, and Peter von Cornelius. They inspired the formation of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Art movements come and go though some have persisted through time. It was not only that the PRB had fallen into disfavor among the British public but that some of its members drifted away maturing in their own styles becoming more painterly and focusing on expressions of emotional states of the psyche.

Perhaps “Beata Beatrix” is thus a transitional piece for a maturing Rosetti
Reynolds (1985) states, “The crisp linear style of gem-like colour was replaced by soft edges, indeterminate shapes and atmospheric tones” (Reynolds, Donald Martin, The Nineteenth Century, Cambridge University Press, 1985, p. 97.) The demise of the PRB can be attributed in part to the changing interests of its adherents who moved beyond its demands for exactitude, observation and sharpened lines with contrasting but vivid colors. Not only had the British public lose interest in their work but that the artists themselves had moved beyond their declaration to revivify the glory of the Renaissance up to the time of Raphael.

#3 Comment By RTS On September 26, 2018 @ 3:18 pm

Beyond the foreign policy skepticism, these are the sorts of articles leave me so invested in the American Conservative.

Thanks for publishing this wonderful review. I hope to find myself in San Francisco sometime soon.

#4 Comment By Rick Steven D. On September 26, 2018 @ 3:21 pm

Bradley, thanks so much for this. Thought provoking, beautifully written. And thanks for being fairly even-handed about the destructive nihilism of Modernism. I believe it was Roger Kimball at The New Criterion who already rode that horse out to pasture, though the best single volume take-down I ever read was John Carey’s 1992 The Intellectuals and the Masses. Carey was talking more about Modernism in literature, but the argument was the same: Art became “difficult” at exactly the same time that universal education and mass literacy appeared. The self-appointed cultural elite now needed to speak in code to distinguish themselves from the great unwashed. BY NO MEANS do I think that is the final word on the genius of a Picasso or a Virginia Woolf, but an intriguing line of thought nonetheless.

Weren’t the Pre-Raphaelites considered decadent? Along with that “hard, gem-like flame” of Walter Pater’s Studies in the History of the Renaissance? I love how in your final paragraph you drop the merest hint of an aesthetic path that might have been followed by the Pre-Raphaelites into the 20th century, possibly even leading in the direction of faith. Before Modernism and what came after it (or didn’t) basically destroyed art. I may be paraphrasing, but Camille Paglia once wrote in her book on painting something that went like “In Art, in the 21st Century, we should be looking for meaning, not trying to subvert it”. Again, thanks

#5 Comment By Bradley Anderson On September 26, 2018 @ 10:03 pm

mrscracker: Your response to the Pre-Raphaelites illustrates the polarization they inspire. Granted, we were not looking at exactly the same paintings, but we had very different responses. I feel their art is cheapened in reproduction but breathes in person–your impression seems to have been roughly the opposite.

JonW: The PRB artists certainly took different paths. Rossetti evolved and changed the most, Hunt the least, but they all grew. There was an entire room at the exhibition devoted to later art by these artists that was inspired by a reconsideration of the very Renaissance art that they were reacting against early in their careers. Hunt was disappointed that the other members didn’t hold to the ideals of the brotherhood the way he did, which is part of what makes his “Lady of Shalott” worth spending considerable time looking at. Not only is it the last major Pre-Raphaelite work, but the work was done in full maturity by an artist who never left the path.

I’m also glad you mentioned Ruskin. I wanted to bring him into the piece because he was so important, but he is such a complicated figure that I thought it was better to leave him out entirely. He really deserves consideration in his own right.

RTS: Thank you for the kind words. I share your gratitude that The American Conservative publishes these kinds of pieces. Believe me, there aren’t many periodicals that publish these kinds of pieces, so as an author I am also grateful. At the risk of shamelessly promoting the magazine I often write for, please forward the link, subscribe to the magazine, and encourage others to do so. That’s sadly how the bills get paid and more articles like this can be published.

I would make one other note: one of the reasons that I like writing about culture and the arts is that I can send this to people I know, regardless of where they are on the partisan political spectrum (or whether they are political at all), and it can be the basis for a reasonable and even enjoyable discussion. That is no small thing in a time when people are so busy screaming at each other that no-one can hear a thing.

I would also note that you need to hurry if you want to see this exhibition–it only runs through September 30, and it will not be repeated in another city, which is a shame, since it is so good.

Rick Steven D: Thank you very much for your comments and kind words. Modern art developed the way it did for reasons, some of which may have been nihilistic and others of which weren’t. It certainly was able to have nihilistic effects. It is important to remember that one of my heroes, Hilton Kramer (the founding editor of The New Criterion), considered artistic modernism at its best to be a vital, healthy, and necessary tradition–perhaps the only vital and living one of our time. Formally abstract art is something that I find to have been particularly healthy and constructive in its time. The conservative mind is not really the same thing as an antiquarian mind. Tradition that isn’t living tradition isn’t really tradition at all.

What I object to, however, (and my view on this creeps into the end of this piece, as you note) is the idea that art had a deterministic future–that one movement led inevitably to the next. That is, when you think about it, a sort of Marxist view of art–history having an “arc” bending in a particular direction and all that. Its fine if you believe that sort of thing–but I don’t.

#6 Comment By JonW On September 27, 2018 @ 12:00 pm

Mr. Anderson,

Thank you for your informative response to our comments. This is the kind of interaction that TAC or for that matter the Internet as a whole has all too little of when concerning the fine arts. Too few of us artists have any knowledge of art history or even care to make a study of the works that precede our time. It seems that our links to the past have been practically severed except for a few of us who look to our predecessors for inspiration. And by predecessors I do not mean Hans Hoffmann or Georg Baselitz or Jean Dubuffet.

Beyond the scope of your wonderful article is the work of Anna Richards Brewster daughter of William Trust Richards the noted marine painter and adherent of the PRB on this side of the pond. By 1892, she began moving beyond the shadow of her illustrious father repudiating in form and in spirit the Pre-Raphaelites. One finds in her work a range of influences as she mastered various approaches to painting marking the Fin de siècle rejection of the academy while never embracing the extremes of the modernist trends of her day. She, from what I gather, did not reject formal instruction whole cloth but the slavish tendency to depend solely on it thus stultifying one’s creativity.

Perhaps a curator will one day be able to pull off the feat of organizing a show of the PRB’s errant offspring or maybe the works of those Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century artists who actually collided with John Ruskin such as James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

#7 Comment By mrscracker On September 27, 2018 @ 12:12 pm

“Your response to the Pre-Raphaelites illustrates the polarization they inspire. Granted, we were not looking at exactly the same paintings, but we had very different responses. I feel their art is cheapened in reproduction but breathes in person–your impression seems to have been roughly the opposite.”

************
Well, art touches everyone in a different way I guess. If we were all the same it would be a very boring world.

When I was growing up, my mother had a large volume of Pre-Raphaelite art & just judging from the book’s smallish images of the paintings I thought they were wonderful. In fact I made it a point to see some of them at the Tate gallery in London when I visited there at 18.

I was deeply disappointed when I saw the paintings up close & personal & my reaction many years later in DC was the same: a little Pre-Raphaelite art goes a very long way.

I actually enjoy a lot of things from that era. And I like the Pre-Raphaelites attention to botanical detail, the decorative William Morris type elements & the stories they depict. But I still think they make better postcards & illustrations than full size paintings.

And thank you for your article. It’s a welcome oasis in a desert of politics.
🙂

#8 Comment By Rick Steven D. On September 27, 2018 @ 1:51 pm

Sorry I am in the middle of working a 12 hours shift in an Emergency Room so I don’t have the mental energy to respond halfway intelligently but I am FLABBERGASTED by your thoughtful feedback. Much thanks and God bless

#9 Comment By Allen Thrasher On September 27, 2018 @ 2:02 pm

I also saw the PRB exhibit in Washington a few years ago, shortly after seeing the Barnes collection in Philadelphia for the first time. The Barne’s Renoirs seemed insipid, repetitive, and boring (except when he did a portrait of someone other than his family) compared to The Pre-Raphaelites. Every one of the latter had enormous presence. But maybe that is what is meant by mrscracker when she calls them “lurid” and “over-wrought.”

The same grab-you presence was in every item in the Burne-Jones show at the Met a few years before that. But there is something strange about Burne-Jones’s figures, something closed-in and frustrated, something I have never been able quite to put my finger on. It may have something to do with sex or something to do with religion and metaphysics. One idea is that the pictures express a melancholy longing for the scenes and people they depict, but that those figures are themselves gripped by a melancholy longing for something, perhaps even for they know not what. So the figures are doubly frustrated, which maybe means the pictures are triply frustrated, however beautiful. No one is longing for a Christian heaven or other divine world which there is at least some chance of attaining. The Platonism is thwarted.

I have not seen this addressed in the books I have read on his work or his life.

It also strikes me as weird that all his women, and for that matter many of his men, look alike.

Perhaps someone who has seen this latest PRB exhibit may have thoughts on these matters.

#10 Comment By Rick Steven D. On September 27, 2018 @ 2:06 pm

By the way, I certainly didn’t mean to knock Modernism- it’s my favorite tradition. I was so nuts about Picasso that my parents took me to see Guernica at the Museum of Modern Art in 1975 when I was 10, right before it went back to Spain after Franco’s death. I think I’m getting a psych patient now-signing off and thanks again!

#11 Comment By Rick Steven D. On September 27, 2018 @ 3:37 pm

Bradley sorry to keep posting but there is a quiet moment in the ER and I just reread your tremendously considered response and I reread my original post and I could see how ridiculous my use of the term ‘Modernism’ is in this context. In my view ‘modernism’ encompasses everything from French Impressionism to German Expressionism, from Pop Art to Op Art, from cubism to abstract expressionism to photorealism to fauvism to the Russian Futurists and brutalist architecture and the surrealists and Frank Lloyd wright and Miro and Francis Bacon and Georgia O’Keefe and Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice etc etc. Of course it’s ridiculous to generalize about so broad and varied a category, which is also the reason I responded that modernism is my favorite tradition. There is SO MUCH to like and admire that you need to burn new grooves in your brain to take it all in. Alright, that’s it. No more posts. I promise

#12 Comment By JonW On September 30, 2018 @ 12:19 pm

Rick Stevens D.,

The first time I saw Guernica at MOMA, I heard its dissonant music as though it were an atonal piece played on the Moog synthesizer. The last time I saw this wondrous piece was at its final home in the Reina Sofia in Madrid. Then I heard only silence.

Picasso is certainly representative of Modernism, the kind for which I find distasteful. His earlier expressionist pieces, his rose and blue periods, resonate with me as they reflect a melancholy reminiscent of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.

#13 Comment By Bradley Anderson On September 30, 2018 @ 12:39 pm

Allen Thrasher: I appreciate your rich comments about your impressions of Edward Burne-Jones, who was a dominant figure in the second wave of Pre-Raphaelites. While it is dangerous to generalize based on one particular selection of his work, my impressions his works in the SF exhibition were along the same general lines as yours.

I went back and looked at the Word file that contains the transcript of my initial handwritten notes and random paragraphs and sentences that I want to get down while they were fresh in my head. Tucked in the middle is this paragraph that I never found a way to work into the piece–I’ll include it here, sort of like the hidden tracks that CDs used to have:

“An entire room is dedicated to the late Pre-Raphaelite, Edward Burne-Jones. This room is dominated by a loan from the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, his “Wheel of Fortune.” Painted in a chilling palette of dull browns, steel greys, and gun-barrel blues, it depicts a dispassionate Fortune turning her wheel which crushes poet, king, and slave alike, all equally naked except for their identifying symbols of laurel wreath, gold crown, and iron chains. Significantly, the slave is highest up on the wheel, with his foot on the head of the king.”

Rick Steven D: Thanks very much for your additional thoughts. One of the things I enjoy about these cultural pieces is that I can interact in the comments section with readers, knowing that it is unlikely to degenerate into something nasty.

I did basically understand what you meant by Modernism, in its broadest sense, and did not take you as dismissing it.

I recently wrote a review of Michael Walsh’s latest book about art and politics for the Claremont Review of Books online edition, and in it I quote him talking about what it takes to more deeply “enjoy, if that is the right word” a particular Prokofiev opera.

I loved that “if that is the right word,” because it succinctly captures something we all feel. At some point along the path, “enjoyment” by those who experience art seems to have become a secondary point for some artists and movements. It is what it is, and such art is usually worth experiencing and reflecting on, but I would say that it shouldn’t be surprising that in our reflections we will sometimes reach for the word “nihilism,” as you instinctively did.

It is true that artists were reflecting the alienation and fragmentation or whatever of the modern world–fair enough. But art is not just a mirror, it also has a powerful ability to shape emotions and thought, especially at a subconscious level. Artists are moral agents in more ways than simply faithfully reflecting where they see things going culturally.

The capability of art to shape emotions and thought is often abused by artists (this is true of much post-modern art) who seem more to be propagandists than anything else. But I think the PRB is an example of non-propagandist art that was trying to point toward what could or should be as well as reflecting nature as it is.

#14 Comment By Rick Steven D. On October 1, 2018 @ 5:12 am

Bradley,

Bravo!

God bless…

#15 Comment By Rick Steven D. On October 1, 2018 @ 6:04 am

JonW,

Reading your impressions almost made me feel like a tourist in the world of Art, as opposed to an actual traveler. Keep looking. Thanks.

#16 Comment By JonW On October 1, 2018 @ 10:36 am

Rick,

Well, actually I am a painter. As a consequence, I tend to look at visual art from the inside out.