Unseen Victorian art shines light on style-rich era

Fri Feb 25, 2011 6:06am EST
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By Stefano Ambrogi

LONDON (Reuters) - The Victorian era has long been associated with prudishness, repression and abject poverty for those unfortunate souls stuck at the bottom of the economic rung.

But it was also a period of tumultuous social and political change where imperial expansion led to greater prosperity and an explosion of intellectual, scientific, literary and artistic curiosity.

Now a new exhibition of Victorian drawings and watercolors drawn from the Courtauld Gallery's 7,000-strong collection of lesser-known works aims to set the record straight and show the rich variety of styles it spawned.

"It's exciting because through Victoria's reign we see great (artistic) diversity...They (the Victorians) were extremely interested in science, venturing abroad and recording the natural world around them and this shines through," said curator Joanna Selborne.

"Use of different media, style, techniques and Impressionist brush strokes were all explored," she said quashing any idea that Victorian artists were conservative and introspective.

The show, "Life, Legend, Landscape" includes many previously unseen pictures of English romantic landscape painter J.M.W Turner, William Etty, best known for his nudes, and Edwin Landseer -- renowned for his depictions of animals and sculpture that includes four huge lions guarding Nelson's Column in London's Trafalgar Square.

Pre-Raphaelites such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and works produced in the 1890s by James Whistler and Aubrey Beardsley are also on view.

The works range from fully finished pieces, to preparatory work for sculpture and stained glass.   Continued...