Something’s happening with Victorian art lately. The mawkish style seems to be gaining visibility, favor and traction in the art market. The 242-lot David Scott collection sold for £4.6m in November. Now Jeremy Paxman is launching a four-part series on the BBC exploring the Victorian era through its art:
New series in which Jeremy Paxman takes his love of Victorian paintings as the starting point for a journey into Victorian Britain. Such pictures may not be fashionable today, but they are a gold mine of information about the most dynamic age in British history.
Waldemar Jaszczak is less convinced. After wondering aloud whether its appropriate to have a political journalist exploring art in a TV series and print, he makes this point:
Paxman’s second driving idea – that Victorian painting is the television of its times – is even more misleading. If Victorian painting is the television of its times, then it is the television drivel of its times: Big Brother, not Dennis Potter; Britain’s Got Talent, not a Howard Brenton play. An experienced cynic such as Paxman ought to have been able to spot the exploitative motivation behind the three-handkerchief poverty porn that made rich men of Sir Luke Fildes or Sir Hubert von Herkomer. Paxman himself has complained noisily about the trivialisation of television, yet here he is promoting sugary Victorian visions of childhood and trotting happily through the history of fairy painting without acknowledging the simple truth that a lousy painting is as worthless as a lousy soap opera.