Friday, March 12, 2010

Master of Victorian Kitsch

Two examples by the British painter Edmund Blair-Leighton (1853-1922).

God Speed! (1900)

The Accolade (1901)

Leighton pumped out these well done medieval scenes to satisfy the trivial romantic needs of the market. Because of medieval subjects some associate him with the Pre-Raphaelites, I think these were much more ingenious and inventive in their time.


  1. Is that "kitsch" in a bad way or in a good (Nerdrum) way?

  2. Perfection from Sweet Sugarcane- Leighton...

  3. I wouldn't say a "in bad way" but at least "in a cheap way". The artist is much more exploiting than ceating or questioning.
    Nevertheless it shows where some of the pictures in movies like lord of the Rings were invented.

  4. I don't think "kitsch" can ever be considered an endearing term. :) Blair-Leighton was a pretty brilliant artist, and he did as many scenes which were more contemporary in subject as he did these Medieval pictures. At the time these were done, England was celebrating it's own culture and history, of which Arthurian legends played a big part, and many artists turned to these stories for inspiration. Is that exploitation? I don't know. He obviously was playing upon the Romantic sensibilities of Victorian society when he chose the story lines in these two pictures, but love and honor have long been popular subjects, no matter how they are clothed. It could easily be that Blair-Leighton was telling the story of British soldiers' involvement in the Second Boer War (saying good-bye to loved ones at home, earning honors for their country, etc.) disguised in the heroic trappings of the mythical King Arthur's Court.

  5. When Blair-Leighton did his paintings the real medieval boom (Walther Scott, the Pre-Raphaelites) was long gone and museums already started with hiding these kind of art in their magazins.

    But I wonder why of all things Blair-Leighton caused such interest. I presented for example with Brandt, Vereshchagin, Pradilla, Lady Butler much better history painters.
    Even great American artists like Howard Pyle or N.C. Wyeth, who are frequently called mere "illustrators" treated medieval subjects in their own genuine (and modern) manner. And if you compare Blair-Leighton with them, he looks very trivial and dull.