• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: Art
  • Word count: 2742

What do Victorian paintings of religious subjects and themes reveal about Victorian attitudes and values.

Extracts from this document...


What do Victorian paintings of religious subjects and themes reveal about Victorian attitudes and values. Victorian values and attitudes to such painting must be considered in the light of their times as it will undoubtedly affect or alter their beliefs causing controversy over certain images and approval or acceptance of others. Queen Victoria's reign was extremely long from 1837 to1901, and saw many social and technological changes, the population changed from being primarily agrarian to industrial and urbanised. A succession of bad harvests in the 1840's had brought starvation and 1848 was a year of revolutions across Europe, reverberating social unease between the rich and the poor, and to add to this period of tension there was serious division within the Church of England. The Victorian age was predominately Christian but Protestantism which many felt was central to national identity, and had up until recent times been the dominant religion was now seen as under "threat", by the growth of Catholicism. The cause of this was two-fold, firstly the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 had given the Catholics citizenship rights previously denied and a huge influx of Irish catholic immigrants had led to a growth in Catholicism which many people held with suspicion and even fear. In 1850 the Pope Pius 1X had re-established the Roman Catholic hierarchy in England, a move so unpopular to cause civil unrest in the form of the so called "No popery riots". ...read more.


In later works Millais steered towards main stream subject matter, and achieved wealth and respectability by painting stirring historical scenes, society portraits, and sentimental pictures of children and lovers. He continued to paint pictures on religious themes but fitting in with the mind frame of the time. This abandonment of Pre-Raphaelite principles angered some of its members who thought Millais had sold out to public opinion and profitability. One of Millais's most popular works was 'A Huguenot on St Bartholomew's Day, refusing to shield Himself from Danger by Wearing the Roman Catholic Badge,' inscribed by the artist 1852. This was based on an incident that occurred in Paris in 1572.The painting shows a Catholic girl trying to persuade her Protestant Huguenot lover to escape the massacre by binding a white cloth around his arm thus identifying himself as a Catholic and saving himself. But while one hand holds the head of his beloved the other hand tries to pull away the cloth, the implication being that he would rather die than deny his faith. The inspiration for this painting was based on a verse from Meyerbeer's opera Les Hugenots performed regularly at Covent Garden since 1848 which Millais had recently seen. Victorians were very keen on the symbolism denoted by certain plants and flowers. This so called language of flowers was put to good effect by Millais in this painting; Ivy covering there wall can stand for friendship in adversity, the Canterbury bell in the bottom left side represents constancy or faith and the nasturtiums, patriotism or loyalty. ...read more.


The painting was sold for its full asking price of 300 guineas by the eminent naturalist W.J .Broderip. In later years when dialectic paintings had fallen out of fashion, Hunt wrote; 'In a letter to J.E. Phythian(MAG) Hunt explained his reluctance 'to force the moral' of the painting as he must have realised that too intellectual interpretation would deflect attention from the work's sensual, physical qualities.' Parris Tate Gallery pub. 1984. To give you an idea of how a contemporary art critic reviewed this work, a critic in the British quarterly review of August 1852 remarked; 'the very reflectiveness of Hunt inclines him a little more than might be wished to conceptions of his own having a doctrinal purport' Another of Hunt's paintings achieved international recognition and became one of if not the most famous religious painting of its day. Although it was not received well initially at the 1854 Royal Academy exhibition probably because of its unconventional treatment of the subject matter, the risen Christ, it went on to become a Protestant icon and a copy of it, by Hunt was presented to St. Paul's Cathedral by Charles Booth in 1908. The June Art Journal of 1854 criticised Hunt for realising the ideal; 'The knocking at the door of the soul is a spiritual figure of such exaltation that it must lose by any reduction to common forms'.. Ruskin defended Hunt and in a letter to the Times explained the symbolism at length, and concluded that it was 'one of the noblest works of sacred art ever produced in this or any other age'.Parris 1984. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Art section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Art essays

  1. The Development of Landscape Painting in the Italian Renaissance.

    The setting for The Virgin of The Rocks is not just a backdrop, nor is it an actual place. The landscape is enigmatic and is perhaps meant as a symbolic extension of the figures represented in the foreground.11 Unlike the drawing that includes the hills as a way to suggest

  2. The Sistine Madonna in the Royal Gallery at Dresden, Saxony

    Perhaps he was right. Who knows ? The Sistine Madonna, which hung for centuries on the wall behind the high altar of San Sisto at Piacenza in Northern Italy. It was suggested by Grimme that this noble painting, most celebrated of all of Raphael's Madonnas and the first to be painted on canvas, the picture assumed a commemorative role.

  1. The boundaries between culture and nature have collapsed and the body has become flexible

    'Let me die before I get old' (Pete Townsend 'My Generation' the Who 1964). Did my generation, who so happily sang along, so long ago, really agree? Do they now? As grey and white overwrite black, blonde and red, first dancing at the temples, then advancing, gaining ground.

  2. William Powell-Frith - Derby Day (1852).

    He recognized the event as providing ...the opportunity of showing an appreciation of the infinite variety of everyday life, 6 found in the kaleidoscopic aspect of a crowd, made up of ...acrobats...nigger minstrels, gypsy fortune-telling... carriages filled with pretty women...and the sporting element.

  1. The Scream: A Description and Interpretation.

    I believe that the central figure in the picture is representative of humanity and the reality of human life in society as one of struggle, suffering and loneliness. The figure cries out in pain at the reality of difficulty and strife in life and the constant fear of illness and death, always present to those who are alive.

  2. What is good about the d'Offay exhibition?

    The brushstrokes are largely similar - broken up slightly by the green border - maybe the green grasses by the coast. The colours are analogous and the only slight drama is created by the vertical stripe of warm yellow on the right-hand side.

  1. A Picture is (Literally) Worth a Thousand Words: Memorable Family Moments Caught by Photography

    and internal states of constant delight are to be revealed on film"(339). Today, the element of displaying the true "self" in pictures gives more meaning to the photos and how we in turn value them.

  2. Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and Guernica

    He also bought all 31 introductory studies for it. He attempted to buy the painting as well, but Picasso said that it was not for sale. Picasso publicly exhibited the painting 9 years after its completion. The influence of the painting spread like a 'shockwave'.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work