Fine Arts

As an age of great prosperity, the Victorian era produced a vast array of paintings. Interestingly, coupled with the rise of the middle classes entrepreneurs acted as middle man between the artist and buyer. No longer the preserve of the aristocracy, art collecting became a popular hobby for the newly rich middle classes. Their taste was very different to that of the previously dominating aristocracy, encouraging a very varied style in the age.

Historians have often looked to art as a valuable primary source for detail on not only costume but how people lived. There are plenty on artists whose work is now available on the internet that will help you find the mood and feel of the time. Many schools of art flourished, especially in France with the rise of the Impressionist movement.

In 1867 the style of 'Realism' has taken over from the previous movements of 'Romanticism' (Blake, Turner, Hogarth, Constable, Gainsborough) and 'Neo-Classicism' (Ingres, Poussin, Canova, Flaxman, Thorvaldsen). Realism wanted to do away with the ancient subjects of Neo-Classicism and the dreamlike quality of Romanticism. Realist artists looked to capture life in the modern age, and this makes them a very valuable historical resource for us today.

For our game's starting year, the current rage in art comes from France and is called 'Impressionism'. It is a very recent movement, appearing in the late 1860's and is proving very popular. The movement is pioneered by Claude Monet, but other adherents include Edward Monet, Pierce Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Edgar Degas. However, the English prove more interested in buying Impressionist art than making it themselves.

Another small movement of note predates our game year of 1867, but it was one of the most influential movements of the age, despite a very short lived ascendance. The Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood contained a number of renowned painters (Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Sir Frank Dicksee, Arthur Hughes, Sir John Everett Millais, John William Waterhouse, Ford Madox Brown and William Holman Hunt) who sought a return to more romantic subjects and style. Their work remains very popular in 1867, even though their time has passed.

However, there are many more paintings that offer us snapshots of the world of Victoriana and so they deserve special attention. Below is a list of artists whose work (mainly from the Realism school) offers a glimpse of the world of 1867. We list the artist and a few of his most useful works. So, a quick use of the internet should show you several of their paintings.

James Jacques Joseph Tissor (1836-1902)

This fabulous artist visited England at the perfect time, and created many illustrations of society for Vanity Fair. Tissot's work has been a valuable primary source for the look of Victoriana. Particular works of interest are Too Early, Hush, A convalescent, A Passing Storm, Reading the News, Ball on Shipboard, The Conservatory Rivals.

Gustav Doré (1832-1883)

This artist is extremely renowned for his engravings and illustrations, especially for those of biblical subjects. However in 1870 he visited London and produced a book detailing the city at the time called 'London - A Pilgrimage'. We have used some of these invaluable illustrations in this book, but the complete set of images is available from Dover Books.

Helen Allingham (1848-1926)

This painter worked mainly in country scenes. Her paintings are a little idyllic, but give us a good picture of rural life.

Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)

This French impressionist was as much a patron as he was an artist. He painted a lot of scenes of the day, many with the subject's back towards the viewer. While he is a little late for our period, his work: 'Paris: A Rainy Day' has appeared on the cover of at least 2 RPG supplements (The Iytean Menace for Dr Who and Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Dead Duke). Other works include 'Les Orangers', 'A Balcony', 'Luncheon', 'Young man at his window', 'In a Café', 'Interior' and 'Portraits in the country'.

Frank Holl (1845-1888)

One of the darker painters of the age, Frank Holl painted many scenes of despair. Among other works, 'The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh away', and 'Newgate, Committed for Trial' stand out.

Sir Luke Fildes (1843-1927)

While Fildes work often shows a rather idyllic picture, his work does cover a broad social spectrum. Particular works of interest are: 'The Doctor', 'The Village Wedding' and 'The Casual Ward'.

William Powell Frith (1819-1909)

Frith's work covers a wide range of Victorian styles, given that he lived through pretty much the entire period. Unfortunately he chose paint a lot of scenes from the previous century! Many of his better-known works are very useful but a little early for our setting (such as 'The Railway Station'). For Victoriana 'Poverty and Wealth', 'The Fair Toxophilites' and 'At My Window' are among the most useful.

John Everett Millais (1829-1896)

As one of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, Millais is better known for his folklore and mythological subjects. However, his series of works showing various reactions to a proposal ('Yes', 'No' and 'Yes or No') are well worth looking at.

Sir William Quiller Orchardson (1835-1910)

Much as Holl, Orchardson offers us a rather bleak picture of life in Victorian England. His paintings 'Mariage De Convenance' and 'Mariage De Convenance - After' offer little hope for love.

Briton Riviere (1840-1920)

If pictures of little girls and dogs are your thing, then you'll enjoy Riviere's work, especially 'Imprisoned', 'Naughty Boy' and 'Sympathy'.

Other useful artists of the period are John Emms, Sir Samuel Luke Simpletons Fildes, Walter Crane, The Clare family, Sir Edward John Poynter, Henrietta Rae, Sir Edwin Henry Sandseer and John Sanderson-Wells.