BBC Books £8.99
The Victorians: Britain Through the Paintings of the Age, By Jeremy Paxman
Sunday 28 February 2010
This enjoyable book, written to accompany the BBC series of the same name, doesn't challenge too many of our assumptions about the Victorians. We know now that a stuffy exterior hid many a seedy life, as Jeremy Paxman illustrates with the life of one popular and populist painter, William Powell Frith: he managed to father 12 children with his wife, and seven with a mistress he kept hidden in another part of London.
We also know – largely thanks to Charles Dickens – that the Victorian city was an over-populated, unhygenic and damaging place, full of poverty-stricken beggars, underage chimney sweeps and prostitutes. In fact, Paxman argues that writers led the way in describing the troubles of city expansion, and it was the artist who had to play catch-up, which led perhaps to the most representative type of painting of any age we have. The Pre-Raphaelites may have embraced symbolism, but it was realist art, as it was realist fiction, that dominated.
Each age gets the art it deserves, and the Victorian era of colonial oppression and work-houses got some real stinkers – but probably not as much as it should have.
TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success
tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
- 4 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
- 5 Teen suffers embarrassing wardrobe malfunction in front of deputy PM
Daredevil, Netflix, TV review: Marvel wins first fight in bid for television domination with Charlie Cox's superhero vigilante
London art exhibition features portrait of Iraqi migrant shot dead in Iraq after being refused UK asylum
Grace Dent on TV: Peter Kay's Car Share made me genuinely LOL
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
Indonesia executions live: 'Hysterical' families heard prisoners being shot dead by firing squad
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds