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British Art term paper

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"The decades that followed the dissolution of the pre-raphaelite Brotherhood in the 'fifties were in fact the bleakest in the whole history of English art. Rossetti, Millais and Hunt survived, producing from time to time something to be valued, but their creative powers were in conspicuous decline. The great powers of Stevens were so misused as to bring him to a premature death with his greatest venture incomplete. Watts was a lofty yet self-contradictory figure and Burne-Jones's gifts as a designer did not, except on rare occasions, redeem the languor and thinness of his imagination. The all but unchallenged power of the Royal Academy fostered almost exclusively the costume-piece and the anecdote. In an environment so pervaded by complacency and sentimentality, in which neither imagination nor the direct observation of nature nor interest in the problem of design or of the potentialities of paint played any part, where was a young painter of serious purpose to turn? The development of the art of painting during the nineteenth century, more especially during the latter half, was in the direction of the closest possible observation of life -- the observation of it as an end in itself rather than as a means of nurturing some ulterior purpose. This was the direction in which the inner logic of painting was impelling it to evolve. There were two obvious sources from which a serious young painter growing up in the age of Alma-Tadema and Leighton might have gained some insight into the realistic impulse which was animating the great painting of his time. He might have looked at the masters of his own country, or he might have looked across the Channel. In 1860 Constable had been dead twenty-three years and Turner only nine. It is a strange fact that both these two masters of landscape, both long illustrious, should have had so negligible an influence upon the English school -- a fact for which it is difficult to account."
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"Some of the earliest opportunities for the artist came with the growth of the luxury book and print trade. During the middle years of the century there emerged a taste for elaborate illustrated histories of England in book form as well as individually issued plates depicting sundry episodes from Britain's glorious past. This phenomenon is closely related to the rise of antiquarian studies in eighteenth-century England. Among the most important publications of this kind were Paul de Rapin-Thoyras' History of England first published in an English translation in 1725 and David Hume's History of England of 1754 which furnished the history painter with the literary basis so vital for success. During the first half of the eighteenth century solid reasons for reading history were propounded in at least half a dozen treatises. A specific, reasonably thorough and coherent theory of historiography emerged during these years in works like Thomas Hearne's Ductor Historicus: Or, A Short System of Universal History etc. of 1714. According to Hearne, not only was history the proper study for gentlemen but the celebration and emulation of the heroes of the past would encourage the reader to despise and condemn vice. Other works like Lord Bolingbroke's Letters on the Study and Use of History of 1735 were also influential."
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"Caldwell's wearing of Indian clothing empowers him in a variety of ways. By decontextualizing the Indian artifacts, Caldwell denies to them the power to speak of Indian culture and Indian political power. He emerges from the clutter on his body as the only true subject of a narrative that relegates Indians to the realm of local color. His Indian outfit functions as a souvenir, carrying within it his narratives of having lived in Indian territory. As Susan Stewart suggests in her book On Longing, souvenirs function "to generate narratives" -not narratives of the originators of the artifacts, which in this case would have been the Chippewa who made the garters, but narratives of Caldwell's experiences among the Chippewa. Stewart writes: "Removed from its context, the exotic souvenir is a sign of survival -not its own survival, but the survival of the possessor outside his or her own context of familiarity. Its otherness speaks to the possessor's capacity for otherness: it is the possessor, not the souvenir, which is ultimately the curiosity." His costume is a souvenir of his sojourn and an emblem of his ability to master the experience of a radically foreign environment."
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