Saturday, June 10, 2017

Storytelling in Victorian Painting

Michael Ancher
Lifeboat taken through the Dunes
oil on canvas
Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

Michael Ancher
The Drowned Fisherman
oil on canvas
Skagens Museum, Denmark


A blue light
streams out of my clothes.
Ringing tambourines of ice.
I close my eyes.
There is a silent world,
there is a crack
where the dead
are smuggled over the border.

 Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Robertson

Ford Madox Brown
Finding of Don Juan by Haidee
oil on panel
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Frederic Leighton
The Feigned Death of Juliet
ca. 1856-58
oil on canvas
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

John Everett Millais
The Northwest Passage
oil on canvas
Tate Britain

"The further we went on (our victuall decreasing and the aire breeding great faintnesse) wee grew weaker and weaker, when wee had most need of strength and abilitie; for hourly the river ranne more violently then ever against us, the barge, wheries, and shippes boat of captaine Gifford and captaine Calfield, had spent all their provisions; so as we were brought into despaire and discomfort, had wee not perswaded all the company that it was but onely one dayes worke more to atteine the land where wee should be relieved of all wee wanted, and if we returned, that wee were sure to starve by the way, and that the world would also laugh us to scorne."

 from The English Voyages (1589) by Richard Hakluyt

Edward Poynter
Helena and Hermia
oil on canvas
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

Lawrence Alma-Tadema
A Reading from Homer
oil on canvas
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Albert Joseph Moore
A Musician
ca. 1867
oil on canvas
Yale Center for British Art


Glittering-throned undying Aphrodite,
Wile-weaving daughter of high Zeus, I pray thee
Tame not my soul with heavy woe, dread mistress,
       Nay, nor with anguish,
But hither come, if ever erst of old time
Thou didst incline, and listendedst to my crying,
And from thy father's palace down descending
       Camest with golden
Chariot yoked: thee fair swift flying sparrows
Over dark earth with multitudinous fluttering,
Pinion on pinion through middle ether
       Down from heaven hurried.
Quickly they came like light, and thou, blest lady,
Smiling with clear undying eyes, didst ask me
What was the woe that troubled me, and wherefore
       I had cried to thee;
What thing I longed for to appease my frantic
Soul: and Whom now must I persuade, thou askedst,
Whom must entangle to thy love, and who now,
       Sappho, hath wronged thee.
Yea, for if now he shun, he soon shall chase thee;
Yea, if he take not gifts, he soon shall give them;
Yea, if he loved not soon, shall he begin to
       Love thee, unwilling.
Come to me now too, and from tyrannous sorrow
Free me, and all things that my soul desires to
Have done, do for me Queen, and let thyself too
       Be my great ally.

 written by Sappho in Greek, translated by John Addington Symonds (1840-1893)

Alfred Elmore
Pompeii - AD 79
oil on canvas
Yale Center for British Art

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The Laboratory
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

James Tissot
Women of Paris - The Circus-Lover
oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

attributed to Alfred Stevens
Elegant Figures in a Salon
ca. 1870-80
oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Augustus Egg
The Life of Buckingham
ca. 1855
oil on canvas
Yale Center for British Art

Augustus Egg
The Death of Buckingham
ca. 1855
oil on canvas
Yale Center for British Art


Call for the Robin-Red-brest and the wren,
Since ore shadie groves they hover,
And with leaves and flowres doe cover
The friendlesse bodies of unburied men.
Call unto his funerall Dole
The Ante, the field-mouse, and the mole
To reare him hillockes, that shall keep him warme,
And (when gay tombes are rob'd) sustaine no harme,
But keep the wolfe far thence, that's foe to men,
For with his nailes hee'l dig them up again.

 from The White Devil (1612) by John Webster