This is a comprehensive survey of one of the most fertile and varied eras in the history of painting. It embraces not just the United Kingdom but also the British-speaking countries linked to Britain by cultural ties of empire and emigration, such as the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Africa. Long regarded as a backwater of sentiment and outmoded academic convention that was bypassed by the mainstream of development in Western art, Victorian painting is now enjoyed in its own right. Unfettered by old prejudices, Lionel Lambourne presents a vivid panorama of an age of unparalleled energy and creativity. Wealth, optimism, education and self-confidence created a huge demand for art and a remarkable array of talent emerged to meet it. Producing works in a wide variety of styles, subjects and media, many artists became rich celebrities, while the profession as a whole enjoyed unprecedented public esteem. The author tackles this protean subject by dividing it into themes which reflect its richness and variety.
Chapters are devoted to such topics as mural/history painting, the nude, the portrait, sporting painting, genre scenes and women painters; to social themes such as the fallen woman, social realism, travel and emigration; to movements such as the Pre-Raphaelites. Written with a light touch, full of anecdotes, and with 600 colour illustrations, this study should be entertaining and informative. It should also be a valuable reference work, for in addition to many famous and well-loved images, it presents work by lesser-known artists and explores the byways as well as highways of Victorian art, demonstrating the sheer range and depth of talent that that age produced.
Lionel Lambourne, OBE, was Head of Paintings at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, from 1986 to 1993. His publications include Japonisme (2004) and The Aesthetic Movement (1996), also published by Phaidon.