Culture Magazine

Exhibition News: Telling Tales

By Kirsty Stonell Walker @boccabaciata

This is just a quickie, but I'm absolutely delighted to bring you news of an exhibition that will appear in the Autumn of 2022.  It's all about the Victorian passion for narrative art and it is very special to me as it is my first major exhibition as guest curator! While all the planning and writing is being done, I thought I would do a quick post to give you some idea of what I'm up to...

Exhibition News: Telling Tales

The Captain's Daughter (The Last Evening) (1873) James Tissot

Narrative Art was popular in Victorian Britain at a time when the artistic elite of the country had official turned its back on story-telling. In 1877, the novelist Henry James reported a trip to the Royal Academy when he watched the other viewers tell each other the ‘story’ of the painting:

‘Two ladies stood near me, entranced: for a long time they were silent. At last – ‘Her mother was a widow!’ one of them gently breathed.’

The popularity of such art to the general public was due to its sensational quality but also its accessibility, allowing the viewer to put themselves into the situation and to identify with the characters. Who doesn't love a painting where you can see some drama taking place? Are there people falling in love or, even better, dying tragically? Are there handsome young men being tricksy or dogs telling us something about the human condition?

Exhibition News: Telling Tales

Tick-Tick (1881) Briton Riviere

In many ways, art was a visual companion to the novels of the time, and it’s no coincidence that many famous narrative pieces drew their inspiration from works of literature...  

Exhibition News: Telling Tales

Uncle Tom's Cabin (1866) Edwin Long

Not only that, but 19th century narrative art tells us so much about the concerns of the age, what Victorians feared, desired and what surrounded them in everyday life. I've always been drawn to the Victorian love of story-telling and it's fascinating to see the range of subjects and themes and the ways they found to tell those stories, all in a single image. 

Exhibition News: Telling Tales

Tea in the Conservatory (undated) Harry E J Browne

I have the absolute pleasure of working with the collections of the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and the Southampton City Art Gallery to create an exhibition which will cover subjects such as love and loss, childhood, animals, Empire and war. There will be more information available soon, but at the moment I can tell you that the exhibition will initially start at the Russell Cotes in October and will appear at Southampton next year.

Exhibition News: Telling Tales

Always Welcome (1887) Laura Alma-Tadema

I'll keep you informed and look forward to welcoming you to the exhibition in the Autumn!

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