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.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Secret Cinema interview: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
- 2 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 Iraq crisis: End 'very near' for Christianity after Isis takeover, says Bishop
Secret Cinema interview: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Game of Thrones: season 4 bloopers unveiled at Comic-Con 2014
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
50 best running songs: From Avicii and Pharrell Williams to the classic 'Eye of the Tiger'
Doctor Who series 8: Watch Peter Capaldi in new ‘Listen!’ teaser trailer
Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia