The Victorian era will always be an intriguing time in history. Artists and students have studied its art and literature for decades.
Along with its often controversial societal values, the Victorian era has given us some of the most revered paintings in history.
Many paintings of the time depicted England’s hopes, culture, and movements of the 19th century. Some artists, such as Albert Moore and Danton Gabriel Rossetti, went past the norms of the day, painting art for art. Still, many art pieces promoted religious, political, or social values.
Famous Victorian Era Paintings
It’s impossible to fit every famous Victorian-era painting in this article. Here are a few.
The Lady of Shalott Painting
The Lady of Shalott painting is a chapter of a story. Artist John William Waterhouse portrays a scene from Tennyson’s poem with a similar name.
Tennyson’s poem talks about a young lady who’s isolated indoors. She can neither go outside nor look out the window because she’s under a spell. If she wants to see the outdoors, the only way is a reflection in a glass. So she spends her time weaving scenes she sees, which she weaves into a patchwork.
She gets tired of submitting to the spell and violates it at some point. Afterward, she gets into a boat. Waterhouse paints her in the boat, sitting on the patchwork she made.
But the Lady of Shalott Painting is famous for more than just the story. Waterhouse brought the scene to life with contrasting colors and intricate detailing.
You can see the real Lady of Shalott Painting in Tate Britain art gallery, London.
Painted in 1895 by Frederic Leighton, you can find this masterpiece in Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico.
The painting portrays a lady who’s asleep in a chair. She’s wearing a brightly colored (orange) dress.
Leighton showcases his brilliance in the way he manages to make the woman look lifelike and alive. He successfully uses natural light to add beautiful details to the sunset in the background. The lady’s see-through dress and resting position look so real you’d think it’s a photograph.
The Roses of Heliogabalus
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema painted the Roses of Heliogabalus in 1888.
In the painting, Roman emperor Elagabalus is having a feast with his guests while a woman plays a double pipe behind him.
According to Augustan history, Elagabalus suffocated his guests with violets and other blossoms. The painting, however, shows rose petals falling from the ceiling to cover the unsuspecting visitors.
Lady Agnew of Lochnaw
In 1892, artist John Singer Sargent painted a beautiful portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw. It wasn’t Sargent’s first outstanding work, but it gave him the positive recognition he deserved.
Lady Agnew (Sir Andrew Agnew’s wife) sits on a chair in the portrait. Her beautiful eyes look straight at the observer. She seems calm and content but also confident and curious. The painting shows how Sargent changed his view of women from the time he painted the controversial Madam X.
The Boating Party
Mary Cassatt, who painted The Boating Party, captured the changing role of women towards the end of the 19th century.
Initially, she had painted women in their domestic roles in or around the home. The Boating Party is different. Although it still has her signature women and children characters, she sets the painting in a water boat with a man rowing the boat.
Cassat uses paint colors masterfully to collapse distances, contrast objects, and add decorative features.
Circe Offering Cup to Ulysses
Circe Offering Cup to Ulysses is another of John William Waterhouse’s masterpieces.
The painting looks innocent. But according to the story, Circe is a sorceress, and the cup contains an evil potion. Talk about evil in a beautiful package!
Circe has turned one victim into a pig (who is lying next to her feet). She hopes to do the same to Ulysses (Odysseus). She doesn’t know that Ulysses knows her secret. Her plan eventually fails, and she has to undo her spell on her previous victim.
Although the story is compelling, the quality of work by Waterhouse is what makes the painting stand out. It’s yet another stamp of his undeniable abilities as an artist.
Art of the Victorian Era
Victorian era art incorporated such themes as impressionism, classicism, and romanticism. There’s much to learn in a single piece of art from that period. Artists and students are grateful for the surviving paintings from that century. They use these pieces to improve their work.
Lillie’s Victorian Establishment has successfully captured the Victorian era with fantastic art and decor. So when you wish to travel back a few centuries for a drink or meal, Lillie’s should be your destination.