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Dinah Birch

(b London, Feb 8, 1819; d Brantwood, Cumbria, Jan 20, 1900).

English writer, draughtsman, painter and collector. He was one of the most influential voices in the art world of the 19th century. His early writings, eloquent in their advocation of J(oseph) M(allord) W(illiam) Turner and Pre-Raphaelitism and their enthusiasm for medieval Gothic, had a major impact on contemporary views of painting and architecture. His later and more controversial works focused attention on the relation between art and politics and were bitter in their condemnation of what he saw as the mechanistic materialism of his age.

Ruskin was the only child of prosperous Scottish parents living in London: his father was a wine merchant, his mother a spirited Evangelical devoted to her husband and son. Ruskin had a sequestered but happy childhood. He became an accomplished draughtsman (taught by Copley Fielding and James Duffield Harding) and acquired, through engravings encountered in Samuel Rogers’s poem Italy (1830), an early enthusiasm for Turner’s art. He was also an eager student of natural science, particularly geology. He travelled with his parents, seeing Venice for the first time in ...

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Jenny Elkan

(b London, Feb 21, 1830; d Croydon, Surrey, Dec 20, 1916).

English painter, writer and collector. He first studied at F. S. Cary’s academy and in 1848 entered the Royal Academy Schools, London. He is also thought to have trained in Paris at some time in the late 1840s or early 1850s, first in Charles Gleyre’s atelier and subsequently at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He specialized in portraits of literary figures and scenes from the lives of past writers, as in Dr Johnson at Cave’s, the Publisher (1854; untraced). His first great success was the Death of Chatterton (London, Tate), which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1856. The impoverished late 18th-century poet Thomas Chatterton, who while still in his teens had poisoned himself in despair, was a romantic hero for many young and struggling artists in Wallis’s day. He depicted the poet dead in his London garret, the floor strewn with torn fragments of manuscript and, tellingly, an empty phial near his hand. The painting was universally praised, not least by John Ruskin who described it as ‘faultless and wonderful’, advising visitors to ‘examine it well, inch by inch’. Although Wallis was only loosely connected with the Pre-Raphaelite movement, his method and style in ...