Date 1875-12-18
Publication Academy
Topic Society of British Artists exhibition
AP display
RA display
Subject art
Keywords comparative value
  ↳ accomplishment
  ↳ merit
Standards PRB aesthetic standards
Notes Part 1 of 2
  ↳ PRB comp., Japanese-mania.

Annotation details

75 December 18 Academy


Society of British Artists exhibition.


Rossetti, William M. "The Society of British Artists." The Academy (1875): 189. Web. 21 Sept. 2011.


Rossetti uses his typically circumspect critical approach to point out the inconsistent quality that he says characterizes exhibitions by The Society of British Artists. He admits to anticipating the exhibition with a feeling of depression, but leaving it with a feeling of complacency because this exhibition wasn't as bad as usual-although he admits also that he missed the last exhibition. His review focuses on the good items he observed, particularly in the demonstration of "exceptional realism" in an "animal picture" that would have a Japanese designer "put on his mettle."

The reference to Japanese art as a measure of excellence is one of the first to occur in Rossetti's critical writing. What Rossetti described as "Japan mania" began to influence both William and Dante Rossetti in 1863, inspiring Dante regarding the Japanese use of color, shape, and picture design, and captivating William who began to collect both books on Japanese art and woodcuts. Whistler, one of the Rossettis' Cheyne Walk circle of associates (Reminiscences 2:316), introduced the Rossettis to Japanese art after viewing several art pieces in Paris. Rossetti states that although Lucy Rossetti did not share his passion for Japanese art, one of their daughters committed to the lifelong study of the subject. (Reminiscences 1:153)

There is positive critique for several pictures, with the most positive aspect being the comparison of a work to the work of a PRB-movement artist, as in the case of Donaldson's Pilgrims Returning Home: "the artist seems to have aimed here, to some extent, at the executive manner of Mr. Watts."

Rossetti offers a brief review of a handful of others, reserving landscapes, minor subjects and water colors for a second article.




Society of British Artists; accomplishment, relative merit

Standards of Judgment:

PRB aesthetic standards

Rhetoric and tone:



Suffolk Street Gallery, Bright, Donaldson, Wolf, Wylie, Clausen, Peele

Works Cited

Rossetti, William Michael.. Some Reminiscences of William Michael Rossetti. Vol. 1. New York: AMS, 1970. Print.

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