An Amazing Dreamcoat at the Royal Academy: The Lloyd Webber Collection

By Bruce, Donald | Contemporary Review, December 2003 | Go to article overview

An Amazing Dreamcoat at the Royal Academy: The Lloyd Webber Collection


Bruce, Donald, Contemporary Review


THE discourtesies extended to the collector, Andrew Lloyd Webber, by the London Evening Standard, The Sunday Times and The Guardian, were not only incivil but also irrelevant. I too feel blank about his musical entertainments. That has nothing to do with the pictures which he has bought from the profits of his enterprises. Money could be far worse spent. He has justified his considerable wealth by sharing the pictures it brought him with the public, at short notice and no little trouble to himself, and to the enrichment of the Royal Academy.

It must be conceded that there is little consistency of style or achievement in the exhibition. Lloyd Webber is devoted to Victorian art and cannot resist kitsch so long as it is Victorian kitsch. Among many meritorious pictures there are some which are quite appalling, as well as various tasteless artefacts. They include a bizarre grand piano, not only reconstructed by Philip Webb but in addition decorated by Kate Faulkner with playing-card pips, mottoes and whorls of gilt gesso-work.

Sir John Millais is represented by Chill October, a meticulously positioned landscape worthy of Daubigny or Theodore Rousseau of the Barbizon School. His Huguenot Lovers (a girl pleading with a young man to flee the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre, and in her ardour pulling him by her scarf with what little strength she has) is deftly composed, the figures slotted into each other in a trim polygon. Elsewhere Millais's story-telling bent becomes ludicrous in such pictures as The Proscribed Royalist, in which a former Cavalier stretches his begrimed head out of a hollow oak-tree to kiss the hand of his lady, who has brought him food. A similar clownish aptness degrades a grave event in William Holman Hunt's Shadow of Death. There a clay-coloured hirsute Jesus, halfway through sawing a plank in Joseph's carpenter's shop, stretches Himself so that He casts a shadow of His crucified form.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti had enough wit and judgement to shun such glib and tasteless visual puns; also to avoid 'platitudes in stained-glass attitudes', as Gilbert put it in one of his libretti. Subtly moving as a poet and translator, Rossetti was far less so as a painter. Self-trained and over-confident, in his earliest pictures he favoured large spongy miasmas of simple colours, either gaudy or dismal. Later, in pursuit of his opiated dreams, he devised cocktails of chloral and colour in the form of his succession of burly Swinburnean women, heavy-tressed and olive-complexioned, their thick jaws jutting from necks coiled like pythons, as in Fiammetta and La Ghirlandata. Finally, although a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, he abandoned the style of Fra Angelico for the distinctly post-Raphaelite Florentine bogus-Mannerism (sometimes contrived, over-ripe and maudlin) of Carlo Dolci and Sassoferrato, as in Blanzifiore and The Damsel of the Sanct Grael.

In a jumble of disparities, it seems best to single out three outstanding Post-Pre-Raphaelite painters: Edward Burne-Jones, James Waterhouse and Atkinson Grimshaw.

Burne-Jones's incompatibility with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood may be discerned in two pictures in the exhibition: Rossetti's Fiammetta, 'a hot wench in flaming taffeta', parts two boughs of improbable apple-blossom and peers through them with an unfocused gape. In Burne-Jones's Music two girls, intent on their duo of voice and viola, interact among limpid orchard-colours. As in Mantegna, whom he admired, Burne-Jones's drawing and coloration are sharp and pellucid. He was as keen at first on the Grail legend and knights in armour as any Pre-Raphaelite, but depicted the Quest for the Grail with a stricter antiquarian accuracy. Max Beerbohm once caricatured the Greek scholar, Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol College, among a throng of Pre-Raphaelites who were painting frescoes: Jowett asks them what the knights would do with the Grail when they found it. Burne-Jones would have felt the weight of Jowett's sarcasm. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

An Amazing Dreamcoat at the Royal Academy: The Lloyd Webber Collection
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.