William Morris

The Exhibition of the Royal Academy

(By a rare visitor)

First publication: To-day, June 1884
Source: William Morris Artist, Writer, Socialist, ed. May Morris, 1936

Transcription and notes: by Graham Seaman for MIA, May 2022

It has been noticed that those who seldom go to the theatre are more critical and exacting than regular playgoers, to whom their modicum of that mild excitement has become necessary by force of habit; this is doubtless a kind provision of nature which would seem to have ordained that those who must be amused should not suffer too much from their amusement; so they go, and laugh and cry at the right places; or at any rate sit out placidly such entertainment as is offered them, gravely comparing one nonentity with another, balancing their respective merits and demerits without much consciousness of any standard of dramatic excellence outside the twaddle they are used to.

On the other hand, those who seldom go carry with them some hope of receiving special pleasure from what they think should be a work of art, and if the entertainment falls short of that, they are not ashamed to confess their disappointment, and so perhaps run the risk of being considered ill-natured and exacting persons,

That risk I am now prepared to run; for though there may not be so many people who find it necessary to frequent exhibitions and studios without caring for the pictures (often without looking at them), as there are who are bound to sit through plays night after night without being interested in them, still there is a considerable body of such unfortunates. And it would even seem to have a literature of its own in the press, the critics in which literature seem to feel bound to make the best of a bad job, whatever happens, as regards those artists to whom the public has got used, and concerning whose works it has learned certain catch words; while on the other hand, some other artists who have the luck (good or ill as it may be thought) to trouble the public mind by the possession of genius, have to fight hard enough to win a place in this too good-natured criticism—a place usually several degrees lower, if that matter, than that of men immeasurably their inferiors.

With this levelling criticism I, though a Socialist, have no sympathy, and yet I do not see how the critics can do otherwise, as far at least as the good-natured part, the indiscriminate praise, goes; for the general opinion is that the fine-arts are in a flourishing and progressive condition, and this impression the critics are bound to share, therefore they must make their facts square in detail with this confident mood, and if they are wrong, 'so much the worse for the facts.'

I admit indeed that there are some (but a few) who have misgivings as to the value of modern art; but these for the most part believe that any short-coming therein is accidental, and may be mended by the individual efforts of a few men of genius and character now alive, who by some means or other will be able to form a living school in the midst of a population ignorant and careless of art.

It is to these doubters that I really address what follows, which is written not in the wantonness of one who wishes to relieve his mind by the expression of unusual opinions couched in strong terms, but with the hope of instilling into them some of the hope which I feel for the future, amidst all the disgust and disappointment of the present.

In fulfilling my task of giving my impressions of the chief picture exhibition of the year, it will be necessary for me to mention the works of some artists in high favour with the public in an unconventional manner. I must ask most of these at least to consider, in case they read these lines (which is improbable), that unless I respected their talents, their works would be useless to me as illustrations of principles; since the pictures of an incapable dauber or so can prove nothing but his own individual incapacity, while misdirected talent may show us the error of the ways of art collectively.

Now in considering such an exhibition as that of the Royal Academy as an indication of the present state and tendencies of art, it is surely necessary to have a clear idea of what the aims of a painter should be. Something like this, I think, will embrace them all: 1st. The embodiment in art of some vision which has forced itself on the artist's brain. 2nd. The creation of some lovely combination of colour and form. 3rd. The setting forth a faithful portraiture of some beautiful, characteristic, or historical place, or of some living person worthy to be so portrayed; in either case so as to be easily recognisable by a careless observer, and yet to have a reserve of more intimate facts for a careful one. 4th. Mastery over material; the production of a finished and workmanlike piece, as perfect in all ways as the kind of work admits of.

Or more briefly: 1st. Expression of imagination. 2nd. Decorative beauty. 3rd. Realization of Nature. 4th. Skill of execution.

Success in any of the three first of these aims, together with the last, will give a picture existence as a work of art. Most pictures that impress us seriously have achieved success in more than one of the three joined to the 4th, while great works of art have all the four qualities united, yet in due subordination to the master one of them, whichever it may be, which produces the greatest impression on us; this subordination is what is meant by the word 'style'.

These aims have been, unconsciously maybe, always before the artists of all living schools of art, and according to the lights of their period were attained to by them. This is agreed to by artists generally to-day, mere deficiencies resulting from an archaic period not destroying the claim of a school to attention except with men quite ignorant of the history of their art. The standard of excellence, therefore, by which we must judge the pictures of to-day would be admitted by all thoughtful artists, who look with great and genuine admiration on the painters of the end of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and who one must think, since they study them intensely, cannot fail to know what their aims were; they must have found out that the pictures which they admire so much and with such good reason do mostly express imagination, always have decorative beauty in them, show a real sympathy with nature, and never fail in workmanlike execution.

Let us therefore apply this standard of excellence to the works in the present exhibition of the Royal Academy, which though it is below the average of the past ten years, is so simply because it lacks the one or two remarkable pictures that other exhibitions have had: and again I say that we must remember that our standard is no mere ideal one, but has been reached by many works, and approached at least by almost every picture remaining to us of the time before the seventeenth century.

Skill of execution is the first thing we must seek for, since without it a picture is incapable of expressing anything, is a failure and not a picture. Well, there are signs here and there on the walls of the Academy of skill of a certain kind, but what does it amount to? does it give us any reasonable hope of establishing by our present method of artistic life a workmanlike traditional skill, continuous and progressive, so that while there may be hope for a man of genius for pushing forward the standard of excellence, no one, be he of genius or not, need waste half the energies of his life in half-fruitless individual experiments, the results of which he cannot pass onto others? What signs are there of collective skill, the skill of the school, which nurses moderate talent and sets genius free? Scanty signs indeed: at best a plausible appearance of workmanlike execution, a low kind of skill which manages to get through the job, but in so dull and joyless a way that one’s eye almost refuses to rest upon the canvas, or one’s brain to take in any idea it may strive to express. That is all I fear that can claim to represent anything like traditional workmanlike skill. What other skill of execution is visible, is chiefly, almost entirely, an amateur-like cleverness, experimental, uncertain, never successful in accomplishing a real work, in expressing a fact or an imagination simply and straightforwardly, but often enough succeeding in thrusting itself forward and attracting attention to itself as something dashing, clever, and —useless; the end not the means.

Of this kind of skill there is a good deal; and to speak plainly it is on this quality, such as it is, that most of the pictures must rest their claim to attention.

For even the most obvious of the other qualities of our standard, realisation of nature, has been cultivated by the painters, it seems to me, with but little enthusiasm. Mr Alma-Tadema's Romano-British Pottery,[1] though unsuccessful as a whole, shows indeed delight and skill in painting all the details of still-life, and in its flesh painting, especially of the accessory figures, a great advance in realisation over his former works: it is really quite refreshing to find an artist among the exhibitors who cares about anything, and tries conscientiously to realise it. So I thank Mr Tadema heartily for his onions and mosaic and beautiful black ware: nor, I feel, ought I to object to the very ‘British’ legs which are walking upstairs, though I rather wish they would walk away. The Interior of a Country Druggist’s by Mr Chevalier Tayler, a name unknown to me,[2] is a quite unpretentious picture which is considerately hung near the ceiling, but which in spite of that can be seen to be effectively painted at any rate, to be good colour and tone, and to contain excellent portraiture of persons and things; amongst the pictures of this year it is quite remarkable, and though it pretends to nothing but prose, is more interesting even in subject than most of the figure pictures in the place.

I shall return to the landscape art presently, but must at this point where we are considering realization, say a word about Mr Peter Graham's pictures; for in spite of all drawbacks they must be considered successes from that point of views; I shall have to speak of his Dawn again. Mr Brett also spares no pains and labour and skill over his sea-pieces: Kingsley’s young Alton Locke would have owed an extra debt of gratitude to him if he had been painting in those days; but with one exception to be noticed presently they are not interesting in subject.

For the rest there is nothing to praise on this head. Mr Luke Fildes’ work does I suppose lay claim to realistic qualities, but can by no means support that claim: his pictures show a contented resting in most common-place conventionality except as regards minor pieces of still life, and in the Venetian Flower Girl, a rough, and I must add repulsive skill of representation of the mass of flowers, which is by reason of slapdash execution and a peculiar deficiency in sense of colour turned into a piece of downright ugliness, and. consequently has no raison d'être whatever. For to paint flowers and to miss the beauty of them is too great an insult both to nature and art: especially if it be so missed by reason of hasty or insolently confident execution: a painter whose forte lies in that direction had better leave alone. It is now many years since Mr Millais has painted flowers which have not injured his pictures instead of adorning them. There are, by the bye, several pieces of this kind of representation of Italian proletariat life scattered about the gallery, which all seem to be founded on Mr Van Haanen's work, of which there is a specimen called Afternoon Coffee, which I cannot say impresses me, in spite of the artist’s reputation. It certainly aims at an effect of realism, which it by no means attains to: the painting is in a way skilful, but quite joyless and uninteresting; there is no pleasure in the colour, though it does not show the repulsive qualities of Mr Fildes’ work: in short, there is nothing in it but a facility which is shared by Mr Fildes, and, amidst its pretence of truth to character, a vulgarity of feeling which he is more or less free from.

So much for the attempts at realisation, the most obvious and commonplace of the painter's aims: we now come to decorative beauty, or let us say beauty simply as expressible by form and colour. I am sorry to say the task of speaking of this quality is as easy as the good Norwegian merchant found the subject of the ‘snakes in Iceland’: for in sober truth there is not one single picture (nor has been for years) which even aims at decorative beauty; except Mr Albert Moore’s Reading Aloud; and of that I am bound, very unwillingly, to say that it is not successful as a piece of decoration, and like Mr Moore’s work generally, of late at least, is at once poor and weak in painting on the one hand, and on the other so obtrusively proclaims contempt for all intellectual qualities, that in spite of the great talent of the artist, it is almost a nullity.

Here then is a body of art which is careless of beauty or incapable of producing it; a strange outcome of modern ‘culture,’ But do we fare any better when we come to the most intellectual of the qualities of our standard, expression of imagination? Scarcely if at all better; it is no exaggeration to say that there is hardly a trace of it in the pictures which pretend most to it, the figure pictures: and we have to fall back on the choice of subject in landscape to discover what feeble signs of imagination are left to our school of painting to-day.

To begin then with those landscapes which show any tokens of discrimination as to subject; I hope that Mr Peter Graham's Dawn is a real portraiture and not ‘composed’ in any way, for apart from the skill and one may add the feeling with which the aspect of sky and earth are realised, the subject cannot but move anyone who has visited the northern latitudes. There is a sense about it of romance and interest in life amidst poverty and a narrow limit of action and maybe of thought, which is characteristic of a poor but historic country side, and reminds me of many a morning’s awakening in a country which one may call the northern limit of history as it is certainly one of its richest treasure-houses; Iceland to wit.

Another Scotch artist, Mr David Murray, has a very interesting picture of Loch Linnhe, drawn and painted with much sympathy for the subject, although the refined painting is open to the charge of weakness; his other picture, My Love has gone a Sailing, is not so interesting as the subject, but well deserves the honour (if honour it be) of being one of the pictures purchased by the Academy from the funds of the Chantry Bequest; Mr Murray has strange companions in this doubtful honour, as we shall see hereafter.

Grez sur Loing by Mr Stirling Dyce is hung too high for the visitor to see the execution; but in its absolute greyness, and in an indefinable charm of form possessed by the ordinary trees, and the houses which are not strictly speaking architectural or even picturesque, it is quite in sympathy with that French landscape which some of us have learned to love.

Then there is Mr Brett’s most careful picture of McLeod’s Maidens, for which all reasonable people owe him deep gratitude; it is no little thing for us stay-at-homes to be able to see as in a glass these shores and skerries of the Gael, which may before long be enlightened by new tales and deeds of heroism, and become a holy land for us Socialists. Only I will ask Mr Brett to hold his hand a while from mere wastes of sea and sky, and to paint portraits of places like these McLeod's Maidens, strange and romantic in form and bearing historical memories with them. I am not ashamed for instance to remind him of what a mine lies untouched in Iceland; I could tell him of places there as wild and strange as the background of a fairy story, every rood of which has a dramatic tale hanging by it; and scenes moreover not unpaintable for a man like him, who mingles so much patience and determination with his skill.

Nay, while I am on this subject, I will once more make an appeal to our painters which Mr Ruskin made to them years ago; the change of seasons and shift of weather we have always with us to give artists opportunities of painting sunrise, sunset, moonlight, autumn, spring, shower, mist, and snowstorm; the mountains and rocks will last our time and longer; but there is one thing which is passing away from the world quicker and quicker every year, and that is fair human building mingled with sweet and unspoiled country; we cannot have too many records of this before it is all gone and it is much to be feared that it will all go before Commercialism gives place to that reasonable life which Socialists long for. It would surely be most desirable to have records of the genuine works of our fathers, which were raised before the supremacy of the present bourgeois barbarism, for the days when that barbarism shall have passed away, but when we shall still be cumbered and hampered by its material results; for the days when we shall be patiently getting rid of the blotches of filth and misery now called towns which the barbarism has cursed us with. I do not mean to say that we get none of this now; several landscape painters do some of this work, but intermittently and without much enthusiasm. Mr Boyce of the Old Water Colour Society indeed has done a great deal of it, and done it too with skill and full sympathy with his subjects, and we owe him all thanks for his good service; but surely many might do it, and not landscape painters only, but also many or most of those (who have sense enough) who at present are driven into painting inane and ridiculous figure subjects, which I don’t think they themselves can care about, and which I am sure no one else ought to.

It must be understood, that I am not speaking of mere pieces of what is called picturesqueness, but of buildings which, often unpretentious, are nevertheless real architecture; and which are so beautiful and so fitted for their past uses at all events, that they often make what would otherwise be a dull piece of country-side lovely and interesting; will not painters see to this? I am sure such works would be saleable; indeed just as one of these old houses will make a piece of Norfolk or Essex interesting, so also, and that is much more of a miracle, will the careful portrait of one make an Academy Exhibition interesting. Would it not be worth while for our artists to form a Society for painting the old houses of England? I will undertake that the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings will help them to subjects and so forth.

Such a scheme of work might do something to call the attention of the public to the treasures which they are daily losing without ever having known of them even; and possibly might shame some of the owners of them out of the habits of careless brutality with which they usually deal with the work of centuries, and which we, the public at large, are fools enough to allow them to treat as their private property.

It would be unfair after saying this not to notice the two or three pictures exhibited this year in which portraiture of old buildings has been attempted in an unambitious and simple manner, leaving altogether alone such pieces of dull conventionality as Mr Vicat Cole’s Bisham, which as they are like nothing existing, or possible to exist, are clearly not meant for portraits of places.

The original of An Old English Country Inn by Mr H.H. Olivier I know the name of, though I have never seen it. It is the only fifteenth-century inn left in England as far as I know, except the George at Glastonbury; I suppose Mr Olivier has reasons for not naming it, so I will not disoblige him by doing so; but would suggest to all artists making portraits of places when they want to keep the name dark, to add to their title, ‘a real place,’ or something of that sort. This picture is again hung up too high to be seen properly, but seems to be fairly well printed,

Mr Eyre Crow has been good enough to give us the likeness of an interesting building in his school of the Aitre St Maclou, Rouen; by the way it is now thirty years ago since I first saw Rouen, then almost entirely a Medieval City and more romantic and beautiful than words can say; I wonder how many beautiful houses have been wantonly or commercially destroyed in those thirty years leaving no record behind them.

Mr Charles Stoney has painted a piece of Malmesbury town, with its beautiful spire showing over the houses. If, as seems probable, Mr Stoney has a real liking for this sort of work, I can tell him of several places in the country lying west of Oxford which would suit him, I think; only he might paint some of them more minutely than he has done with this piece of Malmesbury, as the detail of them and the way their stones have weathered is so delightful; the silvery greyness of these western towns he has rendered well in his Malmesbury Spire.

Mr Phene Spiers has a rather dull water colour of the beautiful buildings at Stoke Say in Shropshire. Mr Newton Bennet has a careful study of the Mill at Streatley also in water colours, but this often-painted subject is scarcely architectural enough for a painstaking artist as things go.

It is likely enough that I have missed several more unpretentious works of this sort among the ocean of stupidity that one has to wade through at the Academy. I beg the painters of such works to pardon me for having missed them.

Very reluctantly, before I make some general observations on the state of intellectual art among us, I must speak of one or two crimes, for I can call them nothing short of this, which disfigure the present exhibition.

The first of these is Mr Orchardson’s Mariage de Convenance, which is certainly clever enough to force the attention of the passer by; but on what terms? The subject, which is surely trite enough to have been let alone, is repulsive; but I will let that pass, although it is of itself enough to condemn the picture in the eyes of a reasonable person. It may be said that it is dramatic, and it is, but again at what an expense! The drama is laid on with a trowel. Hogarth, direct and blunt as he was, did not find it always necessary in his very bourgeois moralizations to have figures accessories, and all of the most hideous and degraded kind. But once again, granted that it was necessary to make the luckless pair both man and wife in this picture attain to the very height of repulsiveness, and that the black ugliness of the surroundings was also necessary, was it essential that the colouring and execution should be thoroughly repulsive also? Again, Hogarth did not find it necessary to point his morals by scrawling and daubing his background in. Does the wretched colour help the drama really? Mere lamplight is not of such a horrible quality, even when a bourgeois tragedi-comedy is going on. The fact is Mr Orchardson was determined at any cost to attract attention, and has chosen to do so by heaping one ugliness on another, from the laying on of the paint to the subject and its dramatic treatment, and so has achieved his end indeed, but in doing so has insulted art and produced a monstrosity.

Near this picture, so worthless in its aim and so false in its method, hangs another: a sorry sight indeed; the record af a ruined reputation, of a wasted life, of a genius bought and sold and thrown away: Mr Millais’ Idyll; the subject of which, when we first heard of it, seemed enough for a painter of whom it must be said at his best that his treatment of a subject reconciles us to the subject itself. But the first glimpse of the picture made an end of any hopes the subject had given us. It is true that the drummer boy, both face and figure, does recall, not Mr Millais at his best, but yet Mr Millais as one yet hoped he might be; although he has made not the slightest attempt to temper into something tolerable the horrible red and yellow of an English drummers coats worn to-day, though not if Mr Millais knew it, in the Pretender’s time. But beyond this one figure there is absolutely nothing in a biggish canvas; the heads of the three Highland girls are mere caricatures of the artist’s former work; the glen in which they are seated, which the painter of Ophelia could, if he had pleased, have made beautiful by merely painting a glen as it was without selection, the glimpse of the royal army, the drummer’s companion, are so much meaningless scrabble, the very drum is painted without pleasure: the canvas is filled up, and, since it has Millais’ name on it, is now ready for market—that is all. To judge Mr Millais by this picture one would suppose he is now heartily sick of his art, regrets his past career, and laments that he does not live a life of pure commercialism.

So much for two individual crimes against art, the second of which seems to me much the most grievous, as it means the loss of what might have been. The other crime I must mention is a corporate one, and the criminal is the Royal Academy itself. It has bought out of the funds of the Chantrey bequest a picture called the Vigil, by Mr Pettie. In common with most artists, I am curious to know why? Will the half-dozen academicians who do know what a good picture really is inform the public what the merits of Mr Pettie’s picture are? Will they deny that they do not know that it is one of the worst pictures of a bad year? Of their other purchases this year, no one I should think would object to that of Mr David Murray's My Love has gone a Sailing, mentioned before in this paper. But I must say the third one, that of After Culloden, does not mend the matter much; it is commonplace and conventional to the last degree, reminding one of the sort of picture turned out in the early Victorian days, and which the great Mr Fred. Bayham[3] used to blame sometimes or praise sometimes according as they were the works of friend or foe, This is the sort of thing which gets the Academy the bad name it has got, and makes it perhaps the most contemptible public body in England—which is saying much.

There are three pictures by foreigners of note in the exhibition. Mr Van Haanan’s I have already noticed. La Nuit, by M. Bouguereau, is the second; there is little remarkable about it except a plentiful supply of that sham workman-like dexterity of execution I have mentioned; the invention is of the commonest and most conventional kind, the colour cold and ill-managed as to relations of the flesh with the drapery and background; it is in short not an ‘artist’s picture,' but is painted for the lower section of the picture-hunting public, and no merits of drawing or modelling that it may have can really redeem it from this commonness of aim. I should not have mentioned it, except for its being a non-English picture, and because I may have to meet the possible objection that the faults I have been noticing in the recent exhibition are due to its being a collection of English pictures.

The third picture, by a foreigner, I think I should have noticed in any case and added it to the list of crimes against the arts I have been drawing attention to: this is M. Van Beer's Soir d'Eté—a most detestable picture; careful and smooth in execution, but with little merit even on that ground save the capacity of laying on oil-paint minutely; a very token it seems of the last corruption of the bourgeoisie, a conscious pandering to the worst tastes of that part of it which consciously preys upon others: it might well serve to illustrate such a book as Gaboriau’s L’Argent d'Autrui.[4]

I have now mentioned all the pictures I could see worthy of special praise or blame. Most of the public favourites are not noticeable enough to be mentioned; it is scarcely worth while to say that this or the other painter is duller than usual, if he is always dull: and to say the truth this article is as short as it is because there are so many who are always dull, I am afraid that to many, as I began by saying, what criticism I have made on this exhibition will seem harsh enough. I can only say it is not careless or light-hearted; and for the rest I know that there are many artists who will in the main agree with me, nay, who think worse than I do on some points of the pictures I have called in question: what is their excuse or explanation? If they have none, and can only say that this low condition of painting amidst our modern culture is an inexplicable accident, then I must say it seems to some that there is no hope for Art. Indeed, some of them will say that there are painters outside the Academy of the highest genius, and ask, does not that fact redeem the Modern School, and give us hope of its future? Hardly, I fear: these artists (there have been few better at any time) are ‘not understanded of the people’[5] at all; the public sometimes treats them with open scorn, sometimes with indulgence, but always considers them mere eccentricities, The real favourites of the public are painters whose pictures I could not even consider in going through the Academy; while fully admitting the genius of those few men—I will not say how few I think them—I see no hope of continuity in it; no chance of their establishing that tradition which alone can keep a great school of art alive, and educate the people to such an extent, that from their ranks recruits will continually be drawn who will be artists, of various degrees of intellect indeed, but all genuine.

I have indeed a hope, and my hope lies in this, that I know that the low condition of the painter's art is not accidental, but is the necessary outcome of our present society. I have tried to show before in the pages of To-Day[6] that the degradation of architecture and the lesser arts is as much the consequence of the supply and demand system, the system of unbridled competition, as the recurring crises in trade or any other economical phenomenon; is it conceivable that while these arts are degraded, the intellectual arts of which they are the very food can flourish? What, I say, is to feed the imagination, the love of beauty of the artists of to-day while all life around them is ugly; sordid poverty on the one hand, insolent or fatuous riches on the other? I will be plain and say that with the one exception of Mr Millais, who has now indeed turned his back upon himself, those only among our painters do work worth considering, whose minds have managed to leap back across the intervening years, across the waste of gathering commercialism, into the later Middle Ages; they are steeped through and through with the manner and ideas of the great Italian painters and their forerunners, and it is through this alone that they are able to produce their beautiful and, paradox as it may seem, original works. Anyone who wants beauty to be produced at the present day in any branch of the fine arts, I care not what, must be always crying out ‘Look back! look back!' It is no use playing with the question: those who wish to have art in these passing days must forget three hundred years and go to school with the craftsmen and painters of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; the alternative is to accept as art the useless cleverness of Mr Orchardson or Mr Fildes, or the meretricious platitudes of M. Bouguereau; and I say emphatically that this is not art.

Now I ask again, with all solemnity and with pain enough, is it possible that a living school of art can be founded on these fragments of retrospective art nursed by the brains of one or two strangely imaginative men? I can only answer the question one way myself: it is impossible, The art of modern Europe, whose roots lie in the remotest past, undiscoverable by any research, is doomed, and is passing away; that is a serious, nay an awful thought; nor do I wonder that all artists, even the most thoughtful, refuse to face the fact. I cannot conceive of anyone who loves beauty, that is to say, the crown of a full and noble life, being able to face it, unless he has full faith in the religion of Socialism.

It is in that faith that I have written the past pages; in that faith that I look on the obvious corruption of the fine arts going on faster and faster every year, step by step with the general bankruptcy of society, not without grief certainly, yet with a certain exultation also, because I can feel in it the coming of the new day, and even such a piece of wretched twaddle as the exhibition we have just been considering is a token of the coming change,

In what way the new art will come who can say for certain? It seems to me that the ideas of the older art still linger too much in the minds of cultivated men to allow any germination of the new amidst them. I believe, as I have for long, that the new art will come to birth amidst the handicrafts: that the longings of simple people will take up the chain where it fell from the hands of the craft-guilds of the fifteenth century, and that the academical art which was developed from that misreading of history which we call the Renaissance, will prove a barren stem. However that may be I know surely that the new society, which we hope and work for, will develope a new art, fit for the life that will be lived under it, and furthered in a way which we slaves of Competition cannot conceive of by that new life of the COMMONWEALTH.

MIA Footnotes

1. Actually called Hadrian Visiting a Romano-British Pottery. Alma-Tadema later repainted the picture to remove the offending legs, which were very central to the original image. Both versions can be seen on the Wikimedia Commons site, as with many (but not all) of the other paintings discussed by Morris.

2. Albert Chevalier Tayler was then only 22. In the autumn of 1884 he began to follow the Newlyn School, producing social realist scenes en plein air. in 1885 he became a founder member of the New English Art Club, created as a progressive alternative to the Royal Academy. [Information from The Chris Beetles Gallery].

3. A character in Thackeray's novel The Newcomes.

4. Actually published as L'argent des autres (Other People's Money)

5. "It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have publick Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments in a tongue not understanded of the people." (i.e., Latin). Book of Common Prayer, 1665

6. Art Under Plutocracy, published in two parts in To-day for February and March 1883