Date 1862-07-01
Publication Fraser's
Topic Academy 1862 exhibition, flawed RA standards
AP display
RA display
Subject art
Keywords authenticity
  ↳ aesthetic standards
  ↳ fairness
Standards classical "high" art
Notes Royal Academy shortcomings.

Annotation details

62 July Fraser's


Royal Academy exhibition 1862, flawed Academy standards.


Rossetti, William M. "The Royal Academy Exhibition." Fraser's 66 (July 1862): 391-410. Web. 21 Sept. 2011.


In this article centered on the Royal Academy exhibition of 1862, Rossetti examines the links between conception and execution in art, claiming that successful representation alone is insufficient to constitute high art regardless of the misguided public acclaim fostered by the standards of the Royal Academy and the lack of public awareness of classical notions of truth and beauty in art. For Rossetti, the more important and valuable artistic expression transcends high or low form and the prescriptive structure encouraged by the Royal Academy. Rather, he urges a return to classical notions of truth and beauty in art, a perfect marriage of intellect in conception and artistry in execution, with no tolerance for external additions of irrelevant factors such as morality or socio-cultural doctrine.

Noteworthy in Rossetti's discussion is the authority he grants to "unprofessional" (meaning not in the profession as an artist) critics like himself and Ruskin, claiming legitimacy for "the small number of men who, without being artists in practice, are such in the study of works of art, and of nature with a view to art." This viewpoint foretells Matthew Arnold's assertion about criticism as an artistic act in the 1865 lecture, "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time."

Rossetti uses his argument about truth and art as a lens to eventually speak of a few dozen examples from the Royal Exhibition where his precepts are successfully in evidence and also to point out where they are not. He singles out British portraiture as the worst example of artistry in practice, linking the failure to the low expectations of the largely uninformed public, the marketplace which commissions portraits, and the Royal Academy whose sanctions encourage less than truthful art.

Noteworthy in Rossetti's discussion of individual artists is the praise given to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (for example, Sir John Everett Millais) above most others, as well as the influence of the PRB movement ("Of landscape there is not so much to be said; so powerfully has Preae-raffaelitism fixed its fate . . ."), which he detects in other artists and an explicit discussion of the evolution of the movement itself.


Theorizing, and then examining contemporary art based on the points of reason in his theories; critiquing, uncovering truth


"High art", "domestic art;" "high art practiced by small artists;" "low art practiced by able artists;" conception and representation, "the dignity of mind", "true natural perception", "semi-Prae-raffaelite (sic) tendency", a work of both mind and art; "a clear conception of real facts"

Standards of Judgment:

Classical notions of high art, of conception and representation in balance; execution with truth as the overriding principle


Ruskin, Sir John Everett Millais, Hook, Poole, Faed, Bedford, John R. S. Stanhope, Hodgson, Marks, Hart, Wells, Elmore, Hay, George Frederick Watts, Philip H. Calderon, Yeames, Barwell, Mulready, Copes, Hughes, Carricks, Webster, Opie, Burr, Grant, Richmond, Gordon, Phillips, Dickinson, J.C. Moore, C.E. Johnson, Davis, Mote, A. W. Hunt, Whaite, Inchbold, W. Linnell, Lewis, Frederick Sandys, Thomas Woolner, Baron Marochetti, Munro


definitive, deliberative

Writing technique/tone:

Educating, expanding concepts, exhorting, proposing, and drawing conclusions


"If there is a conception and a greatness of representation, the work is a work of both mind and of art,-the greatest possible;" " . . .the mind is nobler than the hand;" ". . . whereas prettiness is a practical confession of artistic incapacity;" "Half the failure of modern, as compared with the great elder schools of art, and half its vices of style and motive, depend on this pigmy pleasure in prettiness, which the artist shares with his public, to their natural content and emasculation;" "Ideal tendency in ideal subject is always in danger of losing itself as 'water does in water;'" of British portraiture, ". . . scared at its own unsightliness, its purblind blinking, its loose, shambling jog-trot, its 'decreasing leg and increasing belly,'" "the portraiture of our day chiefly fails in art;" "the color approaches violence."