Life into art and art into life: visualising the aesthetic woman or high art maiden of the Victorian renaissance

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Women's History Review

ISSN: 0961-2025 (Print) 1747-583X (Online) Journal homepage:

Life into art and art into life: visualising the aesthetic woman or ‘high art maiden’ of the Victorian ‘renaissance’ Anne Anderson To cite this article: Anne Anderson (2001) Life into art and art into life: visualising the aesthetic woman or ‘high art maiden’ of the Victorian ‘renaissance’, Women's History Review, 10:3, 441-462 To link to this article:

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Date: 24 January 2017, At: 13:21

Women’s History Review, Volume 10, Number 3, 2001

Life into Art and Art into Life: visualising the Aesthetic Woman or ‘High Art Maiden’ of the Victorian ‘Renaissance’ ANNE ANDERSON Southampton Institute, United Kingdom

ABSTRACT There has been a great deal of research concerning the effect of aestheticism on men in the late nineteenth century, especially in terms of their sexuality, but its impact on women has been largely dismissed as unnecessary, as women were naturally ‘feminine’. This article examines whether ‘the selfabsorption and heightened emotional life of Aestheticism’ (J.B. Bullen, 1998 [Oxford: Oxford University Press]) was tolerable in women or if it was leading to disease, decay and corruption. Aestheticism’s insistence on individuality and self-discovery were to have important consequences for women, fuelling the desire for a life of their own rather than solely service to others.

They glide about like ghosts: they play melancholy tunes ... Washed out people in strange faded dresses, who flop and drawl and sigh all over the place. (from The Colonel by F.C. Burnand, 1881)

In The Pre-Raphaelite Body: fear and desire in painting, poetry and criticism, J.B. Bullen contends that ‘in women the self-absorption and heightened emotional life of Aestheticism was tolerable because feminine but in men it was anathema’.[1] This article sets out to refute this assumption by examining the effect of art, or more broadly culture, upon the physical and mental state of woman during the last thirty years of the nineteenth century. Many recent critiques have concentrated on male sexuality in the late nineteenth century, reading contemporary images of women in terms of male sexual desire. However, the images created were seen by a large female audience, one which was increasingly well educated. What did these images say to contemporary girls and women? Accounts written at the time constantly refer to the way in which girls were copying the effects seen in paintings.[2] This article sets out to consider some key 441

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images of the day, how these representations of women in high art were ‘read’, how these images were conflated into an ‘ideal type’ or myth generally known as the ‘High Art Maiden’ and how this myth was socially enacted. What did those who adopted this social posture, a ‘live picture’, hope to gain? A better marriage, autonomy or even their own individuality? What is clear is that the High Art Maiden was characterised by her physical appearance, her dress, her manners and her ‘natural’ surroundings. The type was instantly recognisable, although dress in particular was supposed to mark one’s individuality. Physically tall and thin, flat-chested, often with a stoop, the type had deep, soulful eyes, a patrician nose, fleshly lips, angular jaw and a long, rather phallic neck. Although the cultivation of long flowing hair, invariably red in colour, was typical, in extreme manifestations it was cropped. Pale and drawn, she looked ill or in pain. Limp and languid, unable to stand up, she was draped over sofas or propped up against mantelpieces. Her occupations included gazing at a lily or teapot or staring with ‘sightless’ eyes out of the picture. Her reverie often appeared to have been induced by reading poetry or listening to music. She was totally passive and inert. Her dress was unconventional, her renunciation of the corset obvious. Her flowing robes were invariably white. She glided rather than walked. She was surrounded by lilies, sunflowers and peacock feathers. How and why had this type been constructed? What did it offer men as a feminine ideal or women as a type to emulate? If the Aesthetic type was represented as physically mannish or androgynous, morbid and degenerate or even decadent, what were the implications for women who adopted the trope in order to be identified with the movement? It is clear that the site of the High Art Maiden was highly contested and reactions to the type were both positive and negative. What made the Victorian High Art Maiden so provocative was that she appeared to have stepped out of Art into Life. Suddenly the streets were filled with girls who looked as if they belonged in ‘picture-land’. The fashion for taking up art as a religion and adopting the style of an androgynous penitent was, according to Justin McCarthy, writing for his American readers in the Galaxy, widespread. In his 1876 ‘The Pre-Raphaelites in England’, MacCarthy declared: We have now in London pre-Raphaelite painters, pre-Raphaelite poets, pre-Raphaelite novelists, pre-Raphaelite young ladies, pre-Raphaelite hair, eyes, complexion, dress, decorations, window curtains, chairs, tables, knives, forks and coal-scuttles. We have pre-Raphaelite anatomy, we have pre-Raphaelite music.[3]

Evidently, the ‘high cheekbones and straight lank shapes’ of the PreRaphaelite woman had even invaded Christmas cards, displacing robin redbreasts, snow and plum puddings. McCarthy does not find the type threatening, but like Gilbert and Sullivan, simply funny. Overnight the 442


streets had been filled with sexless women, ‘gaunt, lank and long-limbed’, as if she had ‘actually stepped from the canvas into life’. As Psomiades has noted, girls became a ‘sort of live picture’: ‘Her appearance is the sign both of the dangers of feminine consumer desire (desire either out of control or controlled by the wrong sort of people) and of the difficulties posed by the commodification of Aestheticism’.[4] The cartoons in Punch, witty essays by Harry Quilter, plays which included The Colonel, La Cigalle (The Grasshopper) and the enigmatically named Where’s the Cat, the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, Patience, music hall songs such as The High Art Maiden and My Aesthetic Love, the fashion manuals of Mrs Haweis, all indicate that Aestheticism was being turned into a craze and the Lady of Fashion, or obsessive shopper, had to look like a Rossetti or Burne-Jones ‘stunner’.[5] According to Psomiades, the ‘woman who looks like a painting ... is not merely a popular parody or a practical version of an inflated high-art ideal’ but she represents ‘a practical approach to aestheticist ideas: she puts them to use in everyday life’.[6] She is more than a reaction to the ‘aestheticist trope of embodied femininity; she is also a version of that figure’. Aestheticised woman was the most widely disseminated image of the movement, a recognised sign of ‘aestheticist femininity’ through which those who had never seen a painting by Rossetti or Burne-Jones might glean some notion of the aims of the painters and the ‘sartorial habits of would be bohemians’.[7] Aestheticised woman had the ‘ability to signify both art and fashion, imaginary and “real” femininity’. But the paintings from which the type had emanated were perceived by many to be corrupt, associated with androgyne and sexual inversion, unhealthy and morbid.[8] The correlation of art and life was seen with increasing foreboding, precipitating a physical and consequently moral decline in the nation. ‘Life lived through the mirror of art’ was now no longer seen as healthy.[9] Art was blamed for ‘corrupting the youth of the day’, in the same way that violence seen on film or television today is seen as a catalyst for real violent behaviour. For Harry Quilter, ‘the spread of “aesthetic” values from art to life was cancerous’ [10]: ‘As might be expected the evil is spreading from pictures and poems into private life’.[11] The evil, he maintained had ‘attacked’ the decoration of houses and women’s clothes and although an ‘actual creed’ or ‘rule of conduct’ had not yet been established, it ‘has become in some sort effective as a standard of manners’.[12] Art, or more specifically what Quilter defined as ‘false’ or ‘unnatural’ art, was apparently responsible for spreading disease, decay and corruption. The male and female Aesthete were the living manifestation of this process: ‘There may now be seen at many a social gathering young men and women whose lack-lustre eyes, dishevelled hair, eccentricity of attire and general appearance of weary passion, proclaim them to be members of the new school’.[13] At best, these people were ‘false’ or ‘artificial’, shams and charlatans, who had taken up art as a vogue.


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The problem was that by the 1870s, Aestheticism could be bought. It had become a media phenomenon and a ‘lifestyle’ choice to which the ‘serious’ or ‘high’ artworks had become an ‘authoritative credential’, a ‘sign of authenticity’, to which the public could refer.[14] ‘Lifestyle aestheticism’ offered an alternative to conventional bourgeois habits, one based essentially on pursuing high culture and ‘disinterest’. Most alarmingly, it encouraged young men to be artistic and young women to be Intense! Aestheticism was a sinister sign of the times, linked to a rebellious younger generation who appeared to be denouncing proscribed social codes and normal values. According to Bullen, it was, in effect, a ‘sexual revolution’, overthrowing established gender roles.[15] Both the Aesthetic Dandy and the High Art Maiden set themselves against prevailing values defined as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’. Moralists declared that the Aesthete was a public enemy. Arguments against the High Art Maiden were often framed from an evolutionary standpoint, with the type perceived as degenerate or physically and mentally unhealthy. Most contentious was the High Art Maiden’s state of mind. Many concluded that she was sad or even depressed. Depression is normally read as an ‘abandonment of goals’, often resulting in a mental and physical malaise or morbidity. It is often induced by sadness or grief, the process of mourning. What had caused this sadness in the High Art Maiden? Was it to be viewed positively or negatively? The wearing of white became one of the most obvious outward signs of the Aesthetic Maiden, a colour associated with mourning in the ancient world. White underlined the deliberate withdrawal from life, associated with entering a religious or enclosed order. Such simplicity and ‘other-worldliness’ heightened the penitential effect of Aesthetic dress. Apparently denoting physical and spiritual purity, white was increasingly associated with a flawed innocence, an innate worldliness or ‘intimation of mortality’, directly related to the weariness of the Aesthete. In these girls, ‘The soul has begun to awake, to some sense of what a world we live in. And so we have the nineteenth century weariness ... [which] we see just shadowed on those lovely faces of Burne-Jones’s’.[16] In addition to literary characters like Hilda, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s moral tale, The Marble Fawn, and Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, a series of visual images, including Whistler’s Little White Girls, the first appearing in 1862, helped to entrench in the public’s mind the essential characteristics of the Aesthetic Maiden.[17] The ‘weariness’ and ‘sorrow’ associated with the High Art Maiden, the effect of ‘the Soul’s growth ... amid remorse and pain’, although intended as signifying the highest type, was viewed as moral corruption.[18] Hawthorne delivered his ‘Dove’ from the tower, ‘ to be herself enshrined and worshipped as a household saint, in the light of her husband’s fireside’, while Burne-Jones in The Golden Stairs (1880, Tate Gallery, London) pictured her descent.[19] Their ‘improved’ womanhood realised the evil in the world. But as ‘High Art’



became inseparably associated with ‘melancholy ... and darkness’ [20], the Burne-Jones type was perceived to be corrupted by a ‘diseased imagination’.[21] Her moral stance was ambivalent, the signals she sent were confused. Her white dress was cancelled by her red hair, the sign of the devil. Children with red hair were considered to have been conceived during menstruation, to be literally marked by ‘bad blood’. The paradox created by the maiden with red hair, a modern Eve who had lost her innocence and understood the full consequences, was too troubling, for women were simply codified as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and once ‘fallen’, they remained so. The ambiguous ‘fallen angel’ became the ‘sign of the times’, as art lost its moral certitude. For some, the High Art Maiden represented the highest evolutionary type, a woman perfected by art or culture, while for others the process of acculturation resulted in a mental and physical breakdown, affecting female sexuality and reproductivity and even threatening social stability. The High Art Maiden was not normal, for she clearly broke with contemporary standards in terms of dress, habits and aspirations. Paterian Aestheticism, which valorised the individual response to beautiful objects, evidently encouraged in women unnatural desires. Women were already associated with wantonness: ‘All women ... are perverse in their tastes, driven by foolish, and even dangerous, desires to consume the exotic and the fashionable’.[22] Woman’s voracious appetite was a result of her biology. Plato considered the need for childbearing to be the cause of woman’s fundamental instability. This resulted in an ‘unbridled sexuality’. According to Kowaleski-Wallace: although women’s voracity has long been asserted, history awaited the proliferation of consumer commodities to make the specific connection between female appetite and the world of goods. With the birth of a consumer culture, women were assumed to be hungry for things – for dresses and furniture, for tea cups and carriages, for all commodities that indulged the body and enhanced physical life.[23]

Scholarship has established that in a modern society, goods carry a wide range of meanings: ‘consumer objects became, with the growth of wide-scale consumption “an expression and guide to social identity”’.[24] ‘Conspicuous consumption’, indeed, a veritable orgy of spending, in the nineteenth century was ‘spurred on by social emulation and class competition’.[25] The pursuit of new types of goods in the context of the Aesthetic Movement, notably artistic goods, especially china and clothing, denotes new social and cultural purposes.[26] The art object promised the satisfaction of a variety of desires. Moreover, the Aesthete was willing to be dominated by an object, to see in it the ‘mirror of his desires’. People considered objects like furniture and china not merely useful, but also a valuable indication of who and what they were. During the Aesthetic period, more women produced and 445

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consumed culture than ever before. Reginia Gagnier has pointed out that the consumer and the Aesthete share certain characteristics: both signify their ‘advanced stage of development’ through the ‘boundlessness’ of their desires; both ‘must choose from a universe of goods on display’; both reveal through their choices their ‘level of civilization’.[27] Yet, a paradox was created by women’s appetite for things, for, on the one hand, consumerism boosted the expanding British economy, but it also threatened male control and endangered the patriarchal order. The female Aesthete is the all-toosuccessful precursor of mass culture and the culture industry.[28] The female consumer had to be disciplined. But ‘lifestyle aestheticism’ not only encouraged women to follow their desire in acquiring things, it also maintained that they could make their own choices. In this way, the High Art Maiden becomes disruptive, for she is out of control, corrupted by the influence of ‘things’ and threatening male power. On the one hand, through the semblance of ‘good behaviour’, implied by her physical appearance and Spartan dress code, the High Art Maiden suggested ‘perfect control’, yet she also ‘embodied rampant unruliness’.[29] The indulgence of her own passions and desires, ‘wrapped up’ in her ‘own narrow feelings’ [30], her body crushed by ‘yearnings not to be gratified because they are insatiable’ [31], made the High Art Maiden as dangerous as the effeminate Dandy. This could be seen not only in the displacement of her affections to objects, implying that she lacked genuine or maternal feelings and her fetishism of objects which she cannot live without, but also as the ‘female consumer of feminine images, she challenges the logic of heterosexual romance on which these images rely’.[32] As Psomiades contends, the female aesthete adds to the ‘aura of perverse sexuality that already characterizes aestheticism the perverse desires of the misguided feminine consumer’. Furthermore, ‘the female aesthete’s insistence on looking like art is seen as an insistence on looking strange and on gratifying the self even at the cost of giving up participation in heterosexual romance’. This desire for self-gratification relates not only to the sexual attraction of the feminine aestheticised body which seduces both the male and female viewer, but to the narcissism or self-containment of the Aesthete. The cornerstone of Aestheticism was solipsism, the view that the self is the only knowable or the only existent thing. In a dominant culture which had subsumed the female self into the care and nurturing of others, into selflessness, the concept of a self-absorbed and self-seeking femininity was anathema. In this context, the female Aesthete became a subversive, alternative type, one ultimately seeking independence, which increasingly appealed to a younger generation of women, whose identity was threatened by social and demographic changes. By the 1870s, some two million middle-class women faced the prospect of never marrying or raising a family. It is against this background that the spectre of the High Art Maiden needs to be read.



Certainly, in the popular imagination, Aestheticism ‘unmanned’ men but it also robbed women of their true sexuality: the ultra-sensual school – a school which in its worst development is the morbid outcome of a weakly over-wrought physique – which every man who respects his manhood and every woman who values her honour must regard with disgust, and would destroy everything of value in the national character. For our part we see merely mawkish sentiment, not ‘passion’, in these wan, and haggard faces – for these limp languors, this hysterical tension.[33]

It was an artist, Burne-Jones, who was held directly responsible for embodying this degenerative type of womanhood. Burne-Jones was seen to be the darling of a ‘sect of cultivated people’, who radically changed British taste during the period.[34] Lucy Crane noted a ‘group of aestheticallyminded people who are described as living only for Art and expressing themselves in a highly foolish, affected and melancholy manner’.[35] Lucy, sister of Walter Crane, the famous book illustrator and friend of William Morris, was in a position to observe the type closely. She maintained that Aesthetes were ‘inseparably associated with affectation and melancholy, and dull colours’.[36] This group frequented the Grosvenor Gallery, formed French-style salons and ‘lived for Art’. By the end of the 1880s, the popular press had dubbed them the Souls but their presence had been felt since the early 1850s. In a series of works, presented at the Grosvenor Gallery from its opening in 1877, Burne-Jones redefined notions of female beauty: ‘That man of genius, Burne-Jones exhibited there, and his pictures became the rage. Fashion, always ready to adopt anything new, set all the town to copy the dress and attitudes of his wonderful nymphs’.[37] One image in particular was singled out for instigating copycat behaviour, The Golden Stairs. The ‘sweet maidenhood’ of the girls on the Golden Stairs seems to encapsulate the artist’s entire oeuvre, the archetypal young girl, a ‘sexless’ beauty, lost in a reverie within an imaginary other world. Recent critiques of Pre-Raphaelite painting have stressed that such images reveal the painter’s psyche, or his soul, rather than that of the model or, as Christina Rossetti so astutely observed, the girl is ‘not as she is, but as she fills his dream’.[38] Yet, in this case, the artist created a type that was enacted both on the stage, as the chorus of Patience (1881), the best known satire on hyper-aesthesia, and even in daily life. Moreover, the image was evidently not purely fictional. The decision to add portrait heads was taken in 1879, when the picture was almost complete. There is no doubt that the ‘portraits’ were of personal significance to the artist, as the girls Burne-Jones selected were his closest female family and friends, Frances Graham, Mary Gladstone, Mary StuartWortley and May Morris, but did he intend the public to be aware of the likenesses in order to enhance the painting’s contemporaneity?[39] John 447

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Christian takes this view: ‘These likenesses helped to give the painting contemporary relevance and make it a key image for popular, fashionable Aestheticism’.[40] It is also clear that Burne-Jones did not intend to create a spectacle of himself by including likenesses of society beauties in his work, as Edward Poynter had done the previous year with his painting of Nausicca and Her Maidens (destroyed). According to Henry James, the world and his wife trooped along to the Academy to spot these famous faces only to be disappointed: Lillie Langtry, Lady Wharncliffe and Violet Lindsay, later the Duchess of Granby, were not done justice to. Such vulgarity would have been beneath Burne-Jones. However, it does seem likely that the cognoscenti, especially the habitués of the Grosvenor Gallery, were aware of the autobiographical nature of the work. The image certainly collapses the real into the imaginary, as it is both the embodiment of high art and lifestyle Aestheticism, figuring both Aesthetic ideals and commodity culture. For Psomiades, ‘the good girl which is art finds herself accompanied by the bad girl who is mass culture’. Femininity can still, at this time, represent both high art and mass culture, ‘both the privacy of art and its sensationally public commodification, both the beautiful inviolate art object and the rapacious feminine consumer’.[41] Psomiades sees in Aestheticism the process whereby ‘the private, lovely woman who signifies aesthetic experience shades gradually and imperceptibly into the public, tawdry woman who signifies the vulgarity of mass-cultural and commodity experience’.[42] Did the image of the golden girls ‘open up the possibility that the real woman exists in relation to feminine images not as a guarantee but as a consumer’?[43] A complex discourse emerges concerning women’s consumption: ‘the woman who looks like a painting signals this new dual nature of aestheticist femininity as both gazed upon, desired object and gazing, desiring subject’.[44] Yet, ‘repeatedly attempting to look like the women in paintings is seen as characterizing a narcissism that removes women from heterosexual circulation’.[45] Feminine desire, ‘what women want’, becomes central to the questions raised concerning the effect of Aestheticism on the female mind and body. In The Golden Stairs, the female Aesthete came face to face with a femininity shaped by masculine desire but one ultimately based on actual women. Female interaction with such works was bound to be unpredictable. Contemporary critics concluded that The Golden Stairs represented the conclusion of a marriage ceremony, which would imply that the girls descending the stairs were contemplating their own impending emergence into womanhood. They are on the brink of a sexual transformation, girls ‘en fleur’. As Elizabeth Bronfen comments, ‘Questions are asked, when such superlative beauty is displayed by a feminine body that has no fixed position socially – the potential wife’.[46] As Edith Wharton postulates in The House of Mirth (1905), ‘when a girl’s as good-looking as that she’d better marry;



then no questions are asked’ (p. 166). As Bronfen explains, the potential wife: existing between the positions of daughter and wife, in a position of transition that is disturbingly ambiguous, the premarital bride belongs to no one, which means that she is nobody. But if the danger of the transitional resides in the fact that this state is undefinable, the danger and fascination that the bride exerts can also be attributed to the fact that she could potentially belong to everybody, that she could be anything and everything. Posing as an enigma, in the sense of an endless potentiality of meaning and social possibilities ... [47]

‘Maidenhood’ as a site of speculation becomes ‘all things’, opening up vistas of possibility. The girls on The Golden Stairs embody these possibilities but it is a staged spectacle, one created by a male artist for both the male and female gaze. The ‘living body’ of the golden girls ‘seems to fade before its function as deanimated sign in an aesthetic, erotic and socio-economic exchange’.[48] In assuming their guise on The Golden Stairs, it could be said that each girl appears to ‘embody the person represented without ceasing to be herself’. This undisguised self-presentation, dressed to perfection by not dressing in splendid clothes and jewels, indicative of her ‘cultural capital’, reveals to the audience all her own ‘flesh and blood loveliness’. The painting is, like a garment, only a veil cloaking the true self. The girls on The Golden Stairs are exemplary figures, personifying the female Aesthete as serious, virtuous, spiritual and committed to the highest goals. They are ‘aristocratic in soul or spirit’, for inner beauty shines through even a plain physique.[49] For Burne-Jones, there were only two types of women, those who take the strength out of a man and those who put it back: the girls on The Golden Stairs surely belong to the latter category.[50] These girls would give moral strength to men, for a love of beauty ‘empowers us to do and be good’.[51] She acts as a role model for the ‘good wife’, a true companion, embodying the notion of ‘Art for Man’s Sake’. The golden girls also demonstrated that gentility, and even social mobility, could be achieved through art. By the 1880s, the High Art Maiden, straight out of ‘picture-land’, cut a fashionable figure on the London social scene. Modelling her appearance on a Burne-Jones ‘nymph’, the social enactment of the type required her to be seen at the Grosvenor Gallery admiring the latest avant-garde works, in the artist’s studio at the knee of the master and developing her talents at art school. Given the hostility from some quarters, what were the advantages of adopting the attributes of the Aesthetic type? Artistic refinement became absolutely essential in the cut and thrust of the marriage market. Eliza Lynn Linton suspected the motives of the Aesthetic Woman, for she did not really love art at all.[52] It was all for the love of man or, more crudely, for securing a good match. In The 449

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Colonel, Lady Tompkins places herself under the influence of Lambert Streyke, who ‘impressed her with the idea that the short cut to Society was by taking an eccentric line in Art’.[53] In the struggle to ascend to a higher class, especially if you were new money, art was a useful ally. There is plenty of evidence for this in the so-called mixed marriages. One of the earliest was the marriage of Blanche Fitzroy, daughter of Hannah Meyer Rothschild Fitzroy (the sister of Baron Lionel de Rothschild), to Sir Coutts Lindsay. Together they founded the Grosvenor Gallery, in 1877, which became the fashionable gathering place of the Aesthetes. Frances Graham became Lady Horner. Her association with Burne-Jones took her into the highest artistic circles. Of the Tennant girls, daughters of Sir Charles Tennant, the industrial baronet, Laura became the wife of Alfred Lyttelton of Hagley Hall and Margot married an Asquith. Perhaps the best example of ‘marrying up through art’ is Virginia Pattle, one of the seven famous Pattle girls, once described as the ‘Elgin marbles with dark eyes’, who as Lady Somers became chatelaine of Eastnor Castle.[54] She and her sisters, Sophia Dalrymple and Julia Margaret Cameron, the pioneer photographer, were part of the famous Holland Park group. Formed under the aegis of their sister, Mrs Thoby Prinsep, at her home, Little Holland House, Kensington, this coterie of bohemians revolved around the painter and sculptor, G. F. Watts, or ‘England’s Michelangelo’. The notion of an aesthetic elite, ‘an aristocracy of mind or spirit dwelling among the teeming masses of the modern age’, was also implicit within ‘lifestyle aestheticism’, as was recognised by Wilde.[55] Essentially, a knowledge of art divided those who ‘understood’ from those who did not. To outsiders, Aesthetes were elitist snobs. Burne-Jones’s Golden Stairs type was essentially comforting, an anodyne individuality, for the girls are not threatening but benign and peaceful. This is not the New Woman who advocates political and social agitation. The primary task of Burne-Jones’s new woman was to give solace to Man, to be his muse and inspiration. The Pre-Raphaelites primarily equated woman with the muse: ‘Woman is not a poet. She is either muse or she is nothing’.[56] According to Bronfen, the muse inspires creativity in the male artist; she represents ‘self-obliterating love’, ‘heroism’ and ‘selfsacrifice’.[57] As a muse, de Beauvoir argues, ‘it is understandable that she should appear his inspiration’, for she ‘mediates between the creator and the natural springs whence he must draw’.[58] The problem for the artist is that he must choose between ‘a corporally present woman and the muse, a choice of the former precluding the latter’.[59] The resulting loss, the shift from presence to absence caused by the transformation of the ‘beloved’ into a ‘symbolisation’, which required the disappearance of the natural presence, preferably in death, was continually visited in the works of the PreRaphaelites, especially Burne-Jones. Burne-Jones was apparently tormented by the fear of loss, as both ageing or death would rob him of his



beloved/muse.[60] ‘The distance created by loss’, on the other hand, ‘the shift from presence to absence’, opened up the ‘space for poetic creation’.[61] The Aesthetic type seems from the first to have been associated in the public’s mind with the Pre-Raphaelite painters, namely Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones and their models. Oscar Wilde, writing a few years later, in The Decay of Lying (1891), observed that life was now imitating art, for the Aesthetic type had indeed escaped from the canvas: We have all seen in our own day in England how a certain curious and fascinating type of beauty, invented and emphasised by two imaginative painters, has so influenced Life that whenever one goes to a private view or to an artistic salon one sees, here the mystic eyes of Rossetti’s dream, the long ivory throat, the strange square-cut jaw, the loosened shadowy hair that he so ardently loved, there the sweet maidenhood of ‘The Golden Stair’, the blossom-like mouth and weary loveliness of the ‘Laus Amoris’, the passion-pale face of Andromeda, the thin hands and lithe beauty of the Vivian in ‘Merlin’s Dream’. And it has always been so. A great artist invents a type and Life tries to copy it, to reproduce it in a popular form, like an enterprising publisher.[62]

The Pre-Raphaelites were certainly recognised as creating beauty from ugliness: Those dear and much abused ‘Prae-Raphaelite’ painters, whom it is still in some circles the fashion to decry, are the plain girl’s best friends. They have taken all the neglected ones by the hand. All the ugly flowers, all the ugly buildings, all the ugly faces, they have shown have a certain crooked beauty of their own, entirely apart from the oddness which supplies the place of actual beauty sometimes, and is almost as attractive. There is a charm in low colouring, in straight or irregular lines. In restful tame faces per se. The ‘Prae-Raphaelites’ have taught us that there is no ugliness in fact, except deformity – nay, even that sometimes is not ugly, cela depend, for all things are comparative. Do not some people admire a cast in the eye, a slight goiter, even a limp? There is a ‘beauté du diable’, stricken with imperfection, but with its own charm. Morris, Burne-Jones and others, have made certain types of face once literally hated, actually the fashion. Red hair – once, to say a woman had red hair was social assassination – is the rage. A pallid face with a protruding upper lip is highly esteemed. Green eyes, a squint, square eyebrows, whitey-brown complexions are not left out in the cold. In fact, the pink-cheeked dolls are nowhere: they are said to have no ‘character’ and a pretty little hand is occasionally voted characterless too. Now is the time for plain women. Only dress after the Prae-Raphaelite style,


Anne Anderson and you will be astonished to find that so far from being an ‘ugly duck’ you are a full fledged swan![63]

Mrs Haweis was indeed correct when she declared that now was the ‘time for plain women’, for the Pre-Raphaelite ‘stunners’ were not conventional classic beauties. Their beauty was considered ‘singular’, at best ‘plain’ or at worst ugly. Their sexuality was doubtful, the facial type being often boyish or mannish. Aesthetic beauty implied looking masculine and unattractive. The High Art Maiden’s characteristic pensive expression and air of poetic melancholy was also directly attributed to Burne-Jones. The link between the ‘brooding and down-cast countenances’ of Burne-Jones’s maidens and the Aesthetic look was confirmed by E.F. Benson, who declared that the women ‘drooped and were wilted’ and ‘let fall over their eyes a tangle of hair, through which they miserably peered’.[64] Burne-Jones created a type that was instantly recognisable. She was thin, pale, limp and perpetually sad: the lugubriosity with which E. Burne-Jones clouds every countenance, even that of Love and the Goddess Venus, he will lift some day when his philosophy is riper and healthier – when he has discovered that all mankind, especially womankind, do not walk about the world like hired mutes at a funeral.[65]

The physical beauty of the High Art Maiden was typical of Aesthetic framing, for she was a manifestation of the idea of finding beauty in the ‘odd’ and ‘ugly’. According to Frank Stone, in his critique of Rossetti’s Ecce Ancilla Domini in the Athenaeum of April 1850, the ambition of the PreRaphaelites was ‘an unhealthy thirst which seeks notoriety by means of mere conceit. Abruptness, singularity, uncouthness are the counters with which they play for fare. Their trick is to defy the principles of beauty and the recognised axioms of taste’.[66] This new type was not to everybody’s taste. Harry Quilter blamed Rossetti and Swinburne for this unhealthy development, although the following was published only two months after the showing of Burne-Jones’s The Golden Stairs: My attention was drawn ... to a young woman in a dull colourless dress, without collar or other adornment, and with a thick mass of hair rubbed confusedly down on her forehead. She was sitting in a corner by the doorway, with a face expressive of such withered joy as I have never seen before affected. Her head leant back against the door-post, her eyes were half closed, more like a piece of seaweed left high upon a beach in the glare of a noonday sun, than a woman, there she sat, unlovely, unwomanly, and unhealthy, – but oh! How aesthetic![67]

Fashion dictated that she appeared bored, depressed or anxious, all outward signs of her hyper-aesthesia. The intention was not to create a beauty that was overtly sexually alluring. The Cult of the Invalid was deployed, creating 452


an aura of virtuous inaccessibility whilst still preserving feminine allure. The female Aesthetic was often consumptive or wasting away in a fit of disease. As Brewer & Porter have pointed out, the word ‘consume’ suggests ‘both an enlargement through incorporation and a withering away ... both enrichment and impoverishment’.[68] Consumption refers not only to a pattern of spending but to pulmonary tuberculosis; in the latter case, to bodily depletion, a deterioration and eventually exhaustion. All those insatiable cravings had taken their toll on the female Aesthete. She was physically spent. Her addiction to buying, her rapacious desire to possess, had brought her to a perilous state. Romantic images of weak and dying women suggested they were suffering from unrequited love or were ‘love-sick’. Constant grieving and perpetual mourning resulted in a veritable fading away. It was akin to penance, reminiscent of Clytie’s punishment, for Apollo abandoned her for causing her sister’s death: From that day she wasted away, for she had been quite mad with love. She had no use for the company of the nymphs, but sat upon the bare ground, night and day, under the open sky, her head uncovered and her hair all disarrayed. For nine days she tasted neither food or drink but fed her hunger only on dew and tears. She never stirred from the ground: all she did was to gaze on the face of the sungod, as he journeyed on, and turn her own face to follow him. Her limbs, they say, became rooted to the earth, and a wan pallor spread over part of her complexion, as she changed into a bloodless plant ... Though held fast by its roots, this flower still turns to the sun, although Clytie’s form is altered, her love remains.[69]

Walter Hamilton’s description of Aesthetic beauty, written in 1882, seems to echo the penitent Clytie: It is in the portrayal of female beauty that aesthetic art is most peculiar, both in conception as of what constitutes female loveliness and in the treatment of it. The type most usually found is that of a pale distraught lady with matted dark auburn hair falling in masses over her brow and shading her eyes full of lovelorn languor or feverish despair; emaciated cheeks and somewhat heavy jaws; protruding upper lip, the lower lip being indrawn, long crane neck, flat breasts, and long thin nervous hands.[70]

Clytie was transformed into a marigold or daffodil. Later, she was associated with the sunflower, which always turns to the sun. The sunflower became the badge of both the male and female Aesthete, expressing their perpetual longings, denoting on the one hand constancy, devotion and adoration but also signifying grief, sorrow, suffering, unrequited love, yearning and desire. It could also imply bitterness or chagrin, for Clytie was tired of waiting and longed to be spiritually transformed in order to be reunited with her lover.


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In this way, the sunflower came to encapsulate the ‘death-wish’, for it was Blake’s sunflower ‘weary of time’ and Tennyson’s sunflower of A spirit haunts the year’s last hours: Heavily hangs the broad sunflower Over its grave i’the earth so chilly.

For the High Art Maiden, the sunflower denoted her hopeless longing, ‘that appealing desire for an indefinite object’, essentially the impossibility, due to the frailty of human nature, of being transformed through art.[71] But was the weary High Art Maiden a victim of the worship of beauty or was it simply that she longed for a man? As Bram Dijkstra comments in his Idols of Perversity, ‘Women who died while clutching the lily of virginity in their hands but were nonetheless in the throes of passion allowed the Victorian male to indulge in the pleasurable sense of being desired by women’ while no physical response was required.[72] The convalescent became a subcategory of the invalid, who although ‘recovering’, was weak, fragile and in need of constant attention. Although temporarily ‘saved’, death might claim her at any minute. The theme of the dying, or physically spent woman, as martyr, with death as the ultimate sacrificial self-negation, created a High-Victorian feminine ideal; helpless, dependent and sexless yet appealing to the male heart. Essentially, she was presented as an ethereal or celestial being. The High Art Maiden was certainly a romantic figure but her fragility and tenderness rendered her virginal. Burne-Jones’s types were not voluptuous or ‘fleshly’, which was a criticism levelled at Rossetti. His Beauty was androgynous or sexless, akin to that of an angel: ‘Surely’, exclaimed the critic in Vanity Fair, ‘these low-browed, heavy jawed, purple-lipped beings ... are not either like things human, or for that matter, divine’.[73] But for Henry James they were ‘Sublimely sexless, and ready to assume whatever charm of manhood or maidenhood the imagination desires’.[74] The female Aesthete was an exaggerated type and an impossible ideal, yet the decline brought on by incessant longing was itself perceived as a sign of heightened ‘Intensity’. The melancholia, ‘or morbid pathos, this tearful longing’ [75], of the High Art Maiden was due to her constant yearning for spiritual transfiguration. For those who saw the Aesthetic type as positive or progressive, indicative of the highest artistic sensibility, physical decline represented a heightened spirituality and the manifestation of an ‘endowed soul’. The Aesthetic Maiden was not presented as an intellectual, but rather, as possessing an intuitive love of art. As the ‘handmaiden’ of Art, her natural role was as a guide and improver of man, leading him to a love of Beauty. In modern parlance, it could be said that her purpose was to enable man to find his ‘feminine’ side, to put him in touch with his ‘feelings’. Sensitive and refined, she was potentially an ideal wife and mother. According to Henry James, ‘It is not a question of sickness and 454


health; it is a question of grace, delicacy, tenderness’.[76] This paragon of virtue represented the highest level of cultural attainment. Noble, ‘aristocratic in soul or spirit’, she was a woman perfected by art and consequently an ideal type to emulate or desire.[77] For those who discerned something negative, or even sinister, Aesthetic Woman was ‘stricken with disease of the soul, so eaten up and gnawed away with disappointment and desire’.[78] Her desire was unhealthy, her body and soul withered by a craving for something beyond her. Wedmore and Quilter feared that such insatiable cravings would lead to a mental and physical breakdown, the consequences of overreaching woman’s mental capacities. Such an intense preoccupation with art was ultimately self-destructive. The resulting physical decline represented the consequences of unnatural thoughts, self-centred introspection, or something far more sinister, induced by unproductive lassitude. Women were clearly in danger of becoming overly sensitised, if not neurotic and unable to function properly. Stress, anxiety, depression and hypochondria were seen as the consequences of the pressures of modernity. The very act of living became a strain.[79] The ‘womanly woman’ was recast as the hysteric. Girls besotted by art, self-absorbed to the exclusion of all else, forsaking their duties as a daughter, wife or mother, would not fulfil woman’s mission of self-sacrifice. Solipsism, the belief that the self was the only ‘knowable thing’, was all very well for men, but not for women. Women should not seek a ‘life of their own’ but the fulfilment of others. Selfimposed celibacy and the deliberate rejection of marriage in order to pursue personal goals was seen as both unnatural and subversive: ‘In women ... the womb, a living creature within them with a desire for childbearing, if it be left long unfruitful beyond the due season, is vexed and aggrieved, and wandering throughout the body and blocking the channels of the breath, by forbidding respiration brings the sufferer to extreme distress and causes all manner of disorders’.[80] Such a deranged nervous system was unlikely to bear healthy children. The ultimate punishment of the High Art Maiden was sterility. In satirical attacks against her, Aesthetic Woman has invariably become an ‘old maid’ or spinster, her beauty withered by time, her body barren. She has wasted her life in a fruitless pursuit: ‘They assume a sort of patient, worn out expression; like so many Marianas in moated granges trying to look as though their life has been one long silent suffering; as if they’d never told their love, but had held their stupid tongues’.[81] The High Art Maiden was condemned to wait: ‘Twenty years hence we shall be Twenty love-sick maidens still ... And we die for love of thee’.[82] The natural consequence of this was ageing, as in the case of Gilbert’s Lady Jane: ‘But do not dally too long, Reginald for my charms are ripe ... and already they are decaying. Better secure me ere I have gone too far!’[83] As Lady Jane sings, ‘Sad is that woman’s lot who year by year, Sees, one by one, her


Anne Anderson

beauties disappear’. It was not just her beauty that was fading but her ability to have children. A ‘young damsel of 50’ was not a pretty sight. As an ideal of True Womanhood, the High Art Maiden appealed to both sexes, whereas the New Woman, who emerged in the 1890s, was a direct challenge to the status quo. The male ideal was safely confined to the home, a consumer of art, but many women rejected passivity in favour of a dynamic Aestheticism, which sought to socialise or democratise art. Women now engaged in self-analysis, self-exploration and self-expression, previously considered male prerogatives. Women took art out of the gallery and into the home. The old academic approach to the appreciation of art, in the privacy of the study, did not appeal to women. Women, under the guise of art, began to exert themselves in both social and political arenas. Women talked about art, wrote about art, formed clubs and held salons. They took up artistic practice, studied with serious intent at the increasing number of art schools, demanded access to life classes and even declared that they wished to be considered ‘professionals’. Such activities contradicted the passivity of the High Art Maiden, the ideal being simply the ‘hand-maiden of Art’. This created a sense of anxiety, loss of power, not simply in men but in all those people, male and female, for whom masculine culture was safe and comforting. The Aesthetic Cult of Individuality, of ‘doing as one likes’, and its creed of self-discovery, created a monster, the woman who renounced her supposed ‘nature’ and went in search of her ‘true’ self.[84] Notes [1] J.B. Bullen (1998) The Pre-Raphaelite Body: fear and desire in painting, poetry and criticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press), p. 197. I have referred in the title of this article to the Victorian ‘Renaissance’. The term was current at the time to explain the revival of the arts. Wilde’s first lecture in America was on The English Renaissance of Art and Harry Quilter published his anti-Aesthetic essay, The New Renaissance; or The Gospel of Intensity, in 1880. Quilter was particularly concerned about the effect of Aestheticism on the health of the nation. [2] Kathy Alexis Psomiades (1997) Beauty’s Body: femininity and representation in British Aestheticism (Stanford: Stanford University Press), ch. 4, ‘A Sort of Live Picture: women and the Aesthetic craze’. [3] Justin McCarthy (1876) The Pre-Raphaelites in England, Galaxy, 21, p. 725. [4] Psomiades, Beauty’s Body, p. 134. [5] The rather enigmatic title of Where’s the Cat may refer to The Golden Stairs by Edward Burne-Jones. Matthew Webb refers to a conversation in the studio between the artist and his daughter. Evidently, Margaret wanted to know where was the cat: ‘With this very Golden Stairs, she told him there was one thing missing among so many damsels, the inevitable pussy, and



dared him to put it in’. According to Webb, Burne-Jones rose to the challenge and concealed by the paint is the tail of the cat walking out of the picture. Matthew Webb (1909) Sir Edward Burne-Jones and The Golden Stairs, School Arts Book, Part 2, vol. VIII, No. 5, January, p. 421. Information supplied by Stephen Wildman. If this anecdote was common knowledge in 1880, it also indicates the public’s craving for private titbits and gossip about their favourite artists. [6] Psomiades, Beauty’s Body, p. 136. [7] Ibid., p. 136. [8] Bullen, The Pre-Raphaelite Body, p. 209 and ch. IV, ‘Burne-Jones and the Aesthetic Body’, pp. 149-216. [9] Ibid., p. 192. [10] Bullen, The Pre-Raphaelite Body, p. 196. [11] Harry Quilter (1880) The New Renaissance or the Gospel of Intensity, MacMillan’s Magazine, September, p. 392. [12] Ibid., p. 392. [13] Ibid., p. 392. [14] Psomiades, Beauty’s Body, p. 13. [15] Bullen, The Pre-Raphaelite Body, p. 192. [16] P.T. Forsyth (1901) Religion in Recent Art (London: Hodder & Stoughton), pp. 59-60. [17] The Little White Girl caused a controversy at the time as it was interpreted by some as depicting a ‘fallen woman’. Jules Antoine Castaganary felt impelled to concoct his own narrative, unable to accept a ‘subject-less’ work, seeing a young woman on the morning after her bridal night: What have you tried to do? Perform the masterly stunt of bringing out whites against white? Let me not believe it. Let me instead see in your work something more elevated, the morning after the wedding night, the disquieting minute in the course of which the young woman questions herself, is astonished not to recognise any longer her recent virginity. (JulesAntoine Castaganary, quoted from Henry Dorra (1994) Symbolist Art Theories: a critical anthology (Berkeley: University of California), p. 65. The inverted lily, with its missing petals, signals this loss of virginity, reinforced by the connotations of the skin rug, which suggested an allknowing woman rather than an innocent girl. Again, it can be implied that the girl has been ‘deflowered’. See Robin Spencer, paper given at the Association of Art Historians Conference, ‘Beauty?’, Newcastle, 1996, and Richard Dorment & Margaret Macdonald (1995) Whistler (London: Tate Gallery Publications), no. 14, p. 76. [18] Nathaniel Hawthorne (1860, 1993 reprint edition) The Marble Faun or the Romance of Monte Beni, in The Complete Novels and Selected Tales of


Anne Anderson Nathaniel Hawthorne, vol. II (New York: The Modern Library; first published 1860, Boston: Ticknor & Fields), p. 728. [19] Ibid., p. 781. [20] Lucy Crane (1882) Art and the Formation of Taste (London: Macmillan), p. 36. [21] Harry Quilter (1869) The Art Journal, p. 173, quoted from Bullen, The PreRaphaelite Body. [22] Elizabeth Kowaleski-Wallace (1997) Consuming Subjects: women, shopping and business in the 18th century (New York: Columbia University), p. 4. [23] Ibid., pp. 4-5. [24] Ibid., p.6, quoting Neil McKendrick & John Brewer. See Neil McKendrick, John Brewer & J.H. Plumb (Eds) (1982) The Birth of a Consumer Society: the commercialization of eighteenth century England (Bloomington: Indiana University Press). [25] Ibid., p.6. [26] It is interesting to note that in the eighteenth century, women also desired china. See Kowaleski-Wallace, Consuming Subjects, pp. 52-69. [27] Regenia Gagnier (1993) On the Insatiability of Human Wants: economic and aesthetic man, Victorian Studies, 36, p. 126. [28] Psomiades, Body’s Beauty, p. 10. [29] Kowaleski-Wallace, Consuming Subjects, p. 5. [30] Henry Maudsley (1868) Illustrations of a Variety of Insanity, Journal of Mental Science, 14, p. 153, quoted from Bullen, The Pre-Raphaelite Body. [31] Frederick Wedmore (1878) Some Tendencies in Recent Painting, Temple Bar, 53, p. 338, quoted from Bullen, The Pre-Raphaelite Body. [32] Psomiades, Beauty’s Body, pp.136-137. [33] Anon. (1879) The Grosvenor Gallery Exhibition, Illustrated London News, 3 May, p. 415. [34] John Morley, quoted from Bullen, The Pre-Raphaelite Body, p. 192. [35] Lucy Crane, Art and the Formation of Taste, p. 36. [36] Ibid. [37] Charlotte Gere (1996) The Art of Dress, Victorian Artists and the Aesthetic Style, in Geoffrey Squire (Ed.) Simply Stunning: the Pre-Raphaelite art of dress (Cheltenham: Cheltenham Museum and Art Gallery), p. 19. [38] ‘Woman is man’s art work; the art work is man’s wife [la femme de l’homme]; in fact, these two enunciations mutually implicate and explicate each other’. Nancy Huston, quoted in Elisabeth Bronfen (1992) Over Her Dead Body: death, femininity and the aesthetic (Manchester: Manchester: University Press), p. 110. [39] The identities of the girls were first mentioned in 1924 in the National Art Collections Fund Annual Journal, p. 457, and given as the artist’s daughter, Margaret (Mrs J.W. Mackail,) May Morris, Edith Gellibrand, who acted under 458


the name of Edith Chester, and Mrs Keene. John Christian (1975), Cat. No. 138, in the Arts Council Exhibition Catalogue, Burne-Jones: the paintings, graphic and decorative work of Edward Burne-Jones 1833-98 (London: Arts Council) identified Margaret, May Morris, Edith Gellibrand and Mrs Keene, but placed them in different positions. Penelope Fitzgerald (1975) Edward Burne-Jones: a biography (London: Michael Joseph), p. 183, placed Margaret at the top, in profile, May Morris in the centre and Frances Graham extreme left holding cymbals. Margaret’s position is confirmed by a study in pencil, also used in his Family Portrait of 1878/79. The features of Frances Graham are identifiable from a series of studies made by the artist during the 1870s and used for several projects, notably for the Perseus Series commissioned in 1875. According to Fitzgerald, May Morris was identified by George Bernard Shaw. Mary Stuart Wortley is identified as the ‘second to approach the door’ but no study has been found to confirm this. Fitzgerald also suggests Laura Lyttelton and her sister Margot Tennant. More recently, Russell Ash (1993) Sir Edward Burne-Jones (London: Pavilion), Plate 19, has offered the same identities but in different positions, while Jane Brown (1996) Lutyens and the Edwardians (London: Viking), Plate 1, suggests Frances Graham is leading her ‘bevy of contemporaries, May Morris, centre facing, Laura Lyttelton, in profile behind her and Margot Tennant, bending over her’. However, contemporary critics complained about the sameness of the heads: ‘the heads of the women have been too evidently studied from the same model (real or ideal)’, from the Magazine of Art, May 1880, p. 399, and ‘The sameness of character in the faces is another defect of invention. All may well have been studied from the same model’, from the ‘Grosvenor Gallery’ Illustrated London News, 8 May 1880. [40] John Christian (1984), in L. Parris (Ed.) The Pre-Raphaelites (London: Tate Gallery and Thames & Hudson), Cat. No. 154, p. 236. [41] Psomiades, Body’s Beauty, p. 13. [42] Ibid. [43] Ibid., p. 152. [44] Ibid. [45] Ibid., p. 17. [46] Bronfen, Over Her Dead Body, p. 270. [47] Ibid. [48] Ibid., p. 271. [49] Linda Dowling (1996) The Vulgarisation of Art: the Victorians and aesthetic democracy (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia), p. xii. [50] Fitzgerald, Burne-Jones, p. 84. According to Fitzgerald, to Burne-Jones even the enchantress was neither sinister nor depraved, but an aspect of the weakness of man. Destructive women were outside blame, since they were only acting in accordance with their nature.


Anne Anderson [51] Dowling, The Vulgarisation of Art, p. 51, quoting Charles Taylor (1989) Sources of the Self: the making of modern identity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press), pp. 408-409. [52] Eliza Lynn Linton (1868) Aesthetic Woman, The Saturday Review, 8 February, p. 166. [53] F.C Burnand (1881) The Colonel, Lord Chamberlain’s manuscript copy at the British Museum: 53248C LIC 19, 31 January, p. 9. [54] John Ruskin quoted from Wilfred Blunt (1975) England’s Michelangelo: a biography of George Frederick Watts (London: Columbus Books), p. 79. [55] Dowling, The Vulgarisation of Art, pp. 96-97. [56] Robert Graves, quoted in Bronfen, Over Her Dead Body, p. 360. [57] Bronfen, Over Her Dead Body, p. 361. In real life, several of the PreRaphaelite models, especially Lizzie Siddal, made the fatal mistake of applying literary conventions to their own personal history. [58] de Beauvoir, quoted from Bronfen, Over Her Dead Body, p. 361. [59] Ibid., p. 362. [60] The artist’s quest for love and his sense of loss are normally attributed, in Freudian terms, to the death of his mother only six days after his birth. See Fitzgerald, Burne-Jones. [61] Bronfen, Over Her Dead Body, p. 362. [62] Oscar Wilde (1891) The Decay of Lying, from Intentions (London: Methuen), pp. 30-31. [63] Mrs Haweis (1878) The Art of Beauty (New York: Harper), pp. 273-274. It is interesting to note that Mrs Haweis gives the credit to Morris and BurneJones for creating this new beauty. Her description singles out red hair and a protruding upper lip, attributes particularly associated with Rossetti’s female type. However, it was Morris’s wife, Jane, who was the living embodiment of Pre-Raphaelite beauty and Rossetti’s favourite model. Even after the breakdown in the artist’s health, which led to their estrangement, Jane remained Rossetti’s ideal beauty. However, even he sometimes transposed the flame-red hair of his first wife, Lizzie Siddal, to Janey. [64] E.F. Benson (1930) As We Were: a Victorian peep show (London: Longmans, Green & Co.), p. 259. [65] Anon. (1878) The Grosvenor Gallery, The Art Journal, p. 155. [66] Frank Stone (1850) National Institution, Athenaeum, 20 April, p. 424. [67] Harry Quilter (1880) The Cornhill on Coal-scuttles, The Spectator, 17 July, p. 912. [68] Kowaleski-Wallace (1997), p. 7, quoting John Brewer & Roy Porter (Eds) (1993) Consumption and the World of Goods (New York: Routledge). [69] Ovid (1979 reprint edition) Metamorphoses (Harmondsworth: Penguin; first published 1955), Book IV, p. 101.



[70] Walter Hamilton (1882) The Aesthetic Movement in England (London: Reeves & Turner), pp. 24-25. [71] Henry James (1877) The Picture Season in London, 1877, quoted from J.L. Sweeney (1956, reprinted 1989) The Painter’s Eye: notes and essays on the pictorial arts by Henry James (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press), p. 146. [72] Bram Dijkstra (1986) Idols of Perversity (New York: Oxford University Press), p. 68. [73] ‘Meglip’ (1878) Royal Academy and Grosvenor Gallery, Vanity Fair, p. 281. [74] Henry James (1877) The Picture Season in London, 1877, quoted from J.L. Sweeney, The Painter’s Eye, p. 146. [75] Ibid., p. 146. [76] Henry James (1882) London Pictures, 1882, quoted from J.L. Sweeney, The Painter’s Eye, p. 206. [77] Dowling, The Vulgarization of Art, p. xii. [78] Frederick Wedmore (1878) Some Tendencies in Recent Painting, Temple Bar, 53, pp. 339-340, quoted from Bullen, The Pre-Raphaelite Body, p. 206. [79] Similar concerns had been raised in the previous century: ‘I am surrounded by sensitive women who, frequently, and for slight reasons, spend their nights in tears, and their days with great restlessness. They are, for me, like books which have an exaggerated moral; we know the authors write them with good intentions, but we feel humiliated for not being able to achieve perfection the idea of which they represent’. Mme Necker, ‘Pensees sur les femmes’, quoted from Monica Bolufer Peruga & Isabel Moran Deusa (1998) On Women’s Reason, Education and Love: women and men of the Enlightenment in Spain and France, Gender and History, 10 (1998), p. 195. [80] Plato, Timeus, quoted from Kowaleski-Wallace, Consuming Subjects, p. 4. [81] Burnand, The Colonel, p. 28. [82] W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan (1881, reprint edition 1993) Patience or Bunthorne’s Bride (Woodford Green: International Music Publications Ltd), p. 7. [83] Ibid., p. 31. [84] Matthew Arnold (1869, reprint edition 1889) Culture and Anarchy: an essay in political and social criticism (London: Smith, Elder & Co.), ch. II, ‘Doing As One Likes’.

ANNE ANDERSON is a Senior Lecturer in the History of Art and Design in the Media Arts Faculty at the Southampton Institute, Southampton SO14 ORA, United Kingdom ([email protected]). She holds a University of Leicester BA in Archaeological Studies and is completing a PhD in English at the University of Exeter on Women and the British


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Aesthetic Movement. Her publications include ‘Earning Their Salt in a Busy World: royal and aristocratic art philanthropy, patronage and practice’, in Women’s History Notebook (1999) and, on a completely different subject, The Cube Teapot (Richard Dennis Publications, 1999). She is currently working on a book dealing with the impact of Aestheticism on the lives of Victorian women.