Date 1870-01-01
Publication Portfolio
Topic Contemp. painters vs. PRB principles & potential
AP display
RA display
Subject art
Keywords authenticity
  ↳ aesthetic standards
  ↳ fairness
Standards authenticity
  ↳ PRB principles

Annotation details

70 January Portfolio


Painters of "The Day;" Present RA standard versus PRB potential.


Rossetti, William M. "English Painters of the Present Day." Portfolio 1. (January 1870): 114. Web. 21 Sept. 2011.


The title, when considered with the subtitle that includes but a handful of painters, reveals the double-meaning that tracks Rossetti's purpose in the essay: "painters" are those who are related to the Pre-Raphaelite movement, which is itself in "the present day," the most advanced and successful aesthetic execution in painting. Thus "painting" of "the present day" is exemplified by the artists who "transfuse conceptions through perception . . . to find a close and intimate harmony in fact." In Rossetti's estimation, the highest example of that success is the Pre-Raphaelite movement, which he perceives as the best possible guiding principle for British art of the present day, and of the art in the future.

It is noteworthy that over twenty years after the foundation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, although Rossetti suggests "One is almost tired of writing and reading that word Prae-Raphaelite, and few people need be more surfeited than I," the movement is nonetheless the benchmark by which the success and failure of art attempts are measured by Rossetti even in "the present day," and presumably carried forward by the next generation of artists, including the children of Madox-Brown. Rossetti makes a careful distinction between those actually in the group and those merely executing art in that style. Rossetti is also explicit that the movement itself has dissolved as the founding artists evolve in different directions, although the principles remain valid and influential.

The pattern of the essay in regard to specific artists is this: specific quantitative observations regarding the artist and specific works, then a widening of the discussion to include quantitative and qualitative precepts of Pre-Raphaelitism as evidenced in the artwork examined. The result is both a minor quantitative sketch of the artist and artwork and a major discussion of Pre-Raphaelitism in best practice.

Having said that he is "tired of reading and writing about Prae-Raphaelitism," Rossetti avoids the term but discusses the principles ("the fineness of nature and artistic sense") in his qualitative observations regarding the handful of artists discussed. In this essay, Rossetti likens the successful painters to poets, creating images as powerful, imaginative, truthful and vivid as Dante or Shelley.

After a segment considering a few female painters whose work is lauded with qualified praise, Rossetti considers "the June ior Maddox Browns" in a discussion that reinforces the Pre-Raphaelite principles and legacy going forward in the Maddox-Brown bloodline specifically and in the mature Pre-Raphaelite movement pervading the whole of English painting to its betterment.




Pre-Raphaelitism as "both an ideal and a discipline;" "intimate harmony with fact;" "fineness of nature and artistic sense;" "a spirit of grace", "keenness of expression", "high-toned mind"

Standards of Judgment:

Measuring the value of certain painters' work against classical notions of art, truth and beauty-which are for Rossetti embodied in the Pre-Raphaelite movement's governing principles


Hughes, Leathart, Allingham, Tennyson, Dante, Shelley, Stothard, Windus, Ford Maddox-Brown, Goodwin, Miss Spartali, Lady Waterford, Dudley Gallery


definitive, deliberative

Writing technique/tone:

Careful, deliberate; the feeling is almost as if Rossetti perceives that he's addressed this subject to a tiresome degree. The range and scope of the examples and comparisons is narrow, as if Rossetti were reinforcing previous discussions rather than introducing new arguments and proofs


"One is almost tired of writing and reading that word Prae-Raphaelite, and few need be more surfeited than I," "Pre-Raphaelitism was (we may now speak of it in the past tense, for, as a concerted movement or a bond of union, it is indisputably dispersed) at once an ideal and a discipline . . ." ". . . a very substantial operative power in British art . . ." [Miss Spartali] even if (like most of her sex) not gifted with a strong eye for form . . ." ". . . the subject-matter, whatever it might be, had to be strictly copied, never tampered with nor evaded."