Ryden Bee

On Pre-Raphaelite Art and Snobbery

Simon Poe shared this with the VICTORIA-L academic discussion list, and I thought it deserved a wider audience. The discussion was prompted by a review of the recent Pre-Raphaelite art exhibit at the Tate that seemed to have to account for such an investment in the display of popular (and perhaps therefore questionable) taste. The discussion had already reached a consensus, with which I concur, that those skeptics and critics are judging Pre-Raphaelite art from the perspective of modernist art's valorizing of non-representationalism. To this, Poe brings the charge of snobbery, which seems just right:

"Daniel S Brown says that he was 'reminded of Bourdieu's arguments about how statements of personal taste are flaunted as markers of social class'. I was struck by this years ago. In 1996 there were exhibitions devoted to Paul Cézanne and Frederic Leighton running simultaneously in London. I saw them one after the other and had to face the fact, not merely that I enjoyed the Leighton far more, but that, discounting personal taste as far as possible, I still could not see that he was a drastically inferior artist. I was at that time still a practicing artist myself and many of my associates were from an older generation, who had been educated on the assumption that Cézanne was an 'artist's artist', more-or-less beyond criticism, and that all Victorian art, perhaps Leighton's most of all, was barely describable as art at all. I was made to feel that I was blind, stupid, and even wicked to prefer Leighton. Tacitly admitting that it could be rather hard work to enjoy Cézanne they congratulated themselves on making the effort. Perceiving his superiority demonstrated their own. It was pure (if unconscious) snobbery. The Pre-Raphaelites have always been popular (at least in Britain, where they are well-known) and it is that, rather than anything else, that damns them."

Ryden Bee

Power to the People, Rooted in the English Civil War

The question under debate? Whether suffrage (the vote) was to be given to all men or just to landowners.


"For really I think that the poorest hee that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest hee; and therefore truly, Sr, I think itt clear, that every Man that is to live under a Government ought first by his own Consent to put himself under that Government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that Government that he hath not had a voice to put Himself under."

—Thomas Rainsborough, Putney Debates Record, 1647, Worcester College, Oxford, MS 65.