Date 1876-03-25
Publication Academy
Topic Benjamin Robert Haydon memoir
AP display
RA display
Subject art
  ↳ lit
Keywords Haydon's life
  ↳ letters
  ↳ associations
Standards merit
  ↳ ill humor
  ↳ failures
Notes Position piece: Brit valuation of art
  ↳ RA fails.

Annotation details

76 March 25 Academy


Benjamin Robert Haydon: Correspondence and Table-Talk.


Rossetti, William M. "Fine Art." Academy (March 25, 1876): 203. Web. 21 Sept. 2011.


Only in the closing portion of the review, Rossetti addresses the memoir qualitatively, pronouncing "on the whole highly creditable to the writing gifts of Mr. Frederic Wordsworth Haydon-a godson of the poet." The majority of the review, however, traces the life of Benjamin Robert Haydon with no directly indicated correlation to the memoir. Mostly, Rossetti criticizes Benjamin Haydon specifically, presenting historical waypoints in the artist's life as they played out, usually with equal measures of ill-humor and bad behavior on the part of Haydon. In fact, says Rossetti, "he was barely qualified to figure as a proficient student; and to the end of his life he was never an excellent artist."

The larger subtext in what is for Rossetti an atypically long review of this sort is the question of British society's willingness to recognize and patronize native art as a matter of cultural capital rather than fashionability. British society, Rossetti complains, rejected the higher aspirations of this less than successful but nonetheless correctly, validly and sincerely dedicated artist because "they did not want that class of art, while they did patronize the flimsiest of portrait-painting, or the meagrest toys of fashion or shards of domesticity."

Rossetti defends Haydon in his disputes with the Royal Academy, saying that Hayden was more right in those disputes than the Academy, upholding high art where the Academy failed to strongly do so.

Rossetti notes a recurring theme regarding the unknowing public-and in this case, international community-buying fashionable works of questionable quality for the purpose of attaining fashionable credit.

Rossetti situates Haydon within the genre and his relative achievement in painting. He finds particular historical value in the correspondence included in the memoir, but he points out the gross inaccuracy of some Italian translations.


Critical, historical, polemical


Haydon, Keats, Wordsworth

Standards of Judgment:

Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic standards

Rhetoric and tone:

evaluative, definitive


Haydon, Wordsworth, Keats