The Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones isn’t warning Contemporary art collectors about the evanescence of value in this brief post about Victorian art. That doesn’t mean collectors shouldn’t take notice of the implications contained within this comparison.
Britain is saddled with an enormous legacy of Victorian art. There was a profound enthusiasm for art in 19th-century Britain. Just as today, people were passionate about the artists of their own time. There were new movements such as Pre-Raphaelitism and Aestheticism. Just as today, artists became rich, as you can see if you visit Lord Leighton’s house in west London. And just as today, the monied bought new art. In those days the money was in Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool – and so Britain’s regional city galleries ended up with vast collections of Pre-Raphaelite art that are often their most abundant and prominent exhibits.
What Jones doesn’t say is that those holdings of Victorian art are often also without great value either in monetary or art historical terms. Victorian art has punctuated moments of excitement on the art market. Interest in it goes in and out of style among the public. But it has failed to gain a secure and lasting place which suggests there’s no guarantee that today’s most sought-after artists will be different.
Why I’ve Re-discovered Victorian Art (Jonathan Jones/Guardian)