Date 1875-10-09
Publication Academy
Topic Royal Academy Photo Album
AP display
RA display
Subject art
Keywords RA Album
  ↳ photographed art
  ↳ problems
Standards results
  ↳ appropriateness
  ↳ fairness
Notes First WMR re: photography
  ↳ PRB best of year vs. RA.

Annotation details

75 October 9 Academy


The Royal Academy Album.


Rossetti, William M. "Fine Art." Academy (October 9, 1875): 179. Web. 21 Sept. 2011.


This review is noteworthy not only as the first full treatment of photography and the Royal Academy in Rossetti's critical writing, but also because he states explicitly who he believes has done the best exhibition artwork of the year, Academic or otherwise. He explains what should be the purpose of the album, which should be to photograph those art pieces in the Royal Academy exhibition that drew the most attention and critical acclaim. Rossetti explains what has detracted from the Fine Arts Publishing Company's ability to accomplish that goal: the Company's determination that "the countenance and goodwill of the Academy is to be courted." Consequently, Rossetti says that the Fine Arts Publishing Company has not succeeded in what should have been their ultimate goal.

The photos are of works displayed in the latest Royal Academy exhibition, and Rossetti faults the Fine Art Publishing Company for their selection of works included. The need to cultivate favor within the Royal Academy has resulted in a skewed selection of works weighted heavily toward full members of the Academy first, then associate members, without regard to the success of their works. After accounting for works that were logistically unsuited to be photographed, the overall result was nonetheless that several unworthy or inappropriate works were included in the album, at the inevitable and unjustifiable expense of several more successful exhibitors, including Sir John Everett Millais, George Frederick Watts, Moore, Sir Frederick Leighton, Poole, Hook and many other frequently reviewed artists whom Rossetti sees as having done the best work in the exhibition regardless of their status in reference to the Royal Academy. Several of the included works, according to Rossetti, were "manifestly undeserving," including "one of the most absolutely trivial; and valueless from Mr. Horsley's cheap stock."

Rossetti notes the problems associated with the resulting photos of all of the works, including "a well-known element of photographic falsification," the transformation of color paintings into black and white compositions. Although he does not state an explicit value judgment regarding the effectiveness of photography in capturing artwork nor the legitimacy of photography as an art form, the overall impression Rossetti conveys is that photography is an as yet undeveloped tool for sharing art and further, the use in this case has been skewed by non-artistic constraints attributable to association with the Royal Academy.




Royal Academy Album, photographed artwork

Rhetoric and tone:



Philip H. Calderon, Sir Edward John Poynter, Sir John Everett Millais, George Frederick Watts, Sir Frederick Leighton, Hubert von Herkomer, Boehm, Gilbert, Horsley