Date 1863-06-01
Publication Fraser's
Topic RA exhibition, RA change, PRB influence
AP display
RA display
Subject art
Keywords RA policy shift
  ↳ PRB influence
  ↳ Brit school
Standards current practice
  ↳ potential
  ↳ change
  ↳ value
Notes Extends June 63 Fraser's "cannot stop short"
  ↳ Chapman ref Letters .

Annotation details

63 June Fraser's


Royal Academy exhibition/Royal Academy strictures and aesthetic change.


Rossetti, William M. "The Royal Academy Exhibition." Fraser's 67 (June 1863): 401-410. Web. 21 Sept. 2011.


In this lengthy and elaborate critical essay easily recognized as the "art cannot stop short" essay, Rossetti advances a theory about the inevitability of growth and change in art and art movements. This prefatory argument establishes Rossetti's urgent call for the furtherance of aesthetic development in British art unrestricted by Royal Academy proscription which Rossetti says is impossible and pointless to sustain.

This is Rossetti's lead-in to an appraisal of the effect the Pre-Raphaelite movement has had on British art and artists. Further, in a layered and elaborate argument, Rossetti explains how changes come over not only national art such as British art, but also art movements themselves.

There is also another typically Rossettian discussion of Royal Academy mismanagement of gallery hanging positions ("On the hateful and tiresome question of bad hanging . . ." [794] and the very process of determining these issues . . . But the fact is that the Academy makes in many respects a most deplorable show upon the walls . . . [789]). This is his opening into the subject of the Royal Academy's organization and operation. For the sake of "new blood," Rossetti proposes sweeping changes in the rules of membership in the Academy, as well as in the acceptance of works for display, plus the method of choosing hanging positions (790-791).

When Rossetti finally gets to the specifics of the exhibition highlighted in the title, most of the exemplary works are attributed to Pre-Raphaelite members or movement followers, which are subsequently contrasted with less successful works more in the constrained mode of the Royal Academy tradition.

The significant point embodied in the "art cannot stop short" theme is that aesthetics are a constant growth or movement which, if stopped, kills the art form, becoming "fixed and rooted, no longer a living school, but a pedantry, no longer a body animated by its purpose, but a corpse haunted by the ghost thereof" (783).

Rossetti points out that "Mr. Chapman's half-figure of 'Miss L.P.' is noticeable more particularly for its sense of a high class of beauty, a quality in which it stands unrivalled in portrait art of the exhibition." Nonetheless, in March of 1868 Rossetti describes George Chapman, "he is the reverse of anything Pre-Raphaelite in execution-indeed as an executants he is never quite right from any point of view" (Letters 192). Peattie points out that Chapman was often in the company of the Rossettis in the 1860s, and that Rossetti had visited Chapman's studio (Letters 192).


critical, polemical


PRB, Royal Academy; aesthetic movements, sincerity, progress

Standards of Judgment:

PRB aesthetic standards, classical notions of aesthetics

Rhetoric and tone:

Deliberative, evaluative


Leyton, Leys, Sir John Everett Millais, Madox-Brown, Philip H. Calderon, Prinsep, Hodgson, Keats, Wynfield, Charles Leslie, Chapman, Fisk, John R. S. Stanhope, Ward, Goodall, Baily, Cockerall, Holman Hunt, James McNeil Whistler

Works Cited

Rossetti, William Michael. Selected Letters of William Michael Rossetti. Ed. Roger Peattie. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1990. Print.