Date 1874-12-05
Publication Academy
Topic Society of British Artists
AP display
RA display
Subject art
Keywords purposeless
  ↳ bad art
Standards PRB aesthetic standards

Annotation details

74 December 5 Academy


Society of British Artists


Rossetti, William M. "The Society of British Artists." Academy (December 5, 1874): 135. Web. 21 Sept. 2011.


Under the heading "Fine Art," Rossetti pans the exhibition of The Society of British artists, saying it serves little purpose other than to provide bad artists an opportunity to sell their bad work (see "Notable/Quotable below). He opens his review with the statement, "It would be difficult to imagine a more vacuous and purposeless exhibition" than this exhibition.

Nonetheless, he does find some examples of the type of painting that he normally finds worthy of praise for "truth of expression" and points out certain examples from among the 907 paintings where there is some merit, albeit not to the level that elicits hearty praise from Rossetti ("In such a collection as the present, this work deserves mention, but he cannot secure commendation . . .).

He also notes that the exhibition has a high percentage of female exhibitors and that they hold their own qualitatively with the men, although the exhibition itself Rossetti has determined to be sub-par as a whole. Mrs. Stillman is singled out among the woman as showing "superiority" in many aspects of painting. Stillman, the former Miss Spartali, is also one of Lucy Rossetti's closest personal friends (Reminiscences 2:492).

The critical pattern is typical of Rossetti, offering quantitative description of selected works as well as qualitative analysis of the works' success or failure.





Society of British Artists exhibition November 30, 1874, "purposeless exhibition;" female artists, bad art

Standards of Judgment:

comparative merit among well-executed art



Writing technique/tone:

direct, evaluative, indirectly critical, concise, disappointed


"It would be difficult to imagine a more vacuous and purposeless exhibition than the one which opened in Suffolk Street on November 30th-purposeless save that bad painters, after producing their objectionable works, feel a natural desire to sell them, and somehow, we suppose, they find to some considerable extent, a market in this gallery . . ." "In such a collection as the present, this work deserves mention, but [the work] cannot secure commendation;" ". . . a picture . . . not so absolutely squalid as to be called pathetic."

Works Cited

Rossetti, William Michael. Some Reminiscences of William Michael Rossetti.. Vol. 2. New York: Charles Scribner, 1906. Print.