Dr. Rosemary Julia Barrow received her Ph.D. from the King’s College, London and is now Lecturer in Classical Art and Reception at Roehampton University. She has published on aspects of the classical tradition and Victorian painting and is the author of a monograph on Lawrence Alma-Tadema (Phaidon, 2001).2007 0-7734-5443-8
This book explores the reception of the classical world in painting from the mid-Victorian period to the second decade of the twentieth century, by seeking: to identify and interpret the artists’ choices of ancient textual and archaeological source material; to investigate significant relationships between particular works and contemporary literature and society; and to situate Victorian classicism in the visual arts within the practices of Victorian painting and the classical tradition. The nineteenth century witnessed important developments and discoveries in classical scholarship and archaeology which, along with major shifts in general sensibility, inevitably affected both academic and popular perceptions of antiquity. Drawing on such perceptions, painters in Victorian Britain brought new approaches to the visualization of the ancient past. Today, popular notions of classical-subject painting envision escapist images of a dreamy and idyllic ancient world. The stereotype is not wholly without foundation, but it drastically misrepresents the sophistication of Victorian constructions of antiquity which, among much else, make clear distinctions between representations of Rome and Greece and are capable of a strikingly original, and often deeply ironic, use of themes, motifs and allusions. This reality illustrates that, although classicism impinged on Victorian culture in a way that is almost unimaginable today, many artists acquired an unexpectedly precise and sophisticated knowledge of ancient history, literature and archaeology.