Monday, August 10, 2009

BBC 4 The Pre Raphaelites

For those of you living in the UK, the BBC has released a 3-part documentary series on the Pre-Raphaelites to coincide with Desperate Romantics. Since Desperate Romantics is rather short on historical context, be sure to watch the documentary alongside the costume drama, especially if this is your first introduction to the Pre-Raphaelites.

The documentary, entitled The Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Revolutionaries, features author Jan Marsh (author of Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood) and a number of other art historians discussing the PRB's rise to fame, their landscape art and the eventual commercialisation of their work.

I really enjoyed the series, although I found it a little annoying that they kept insisting that the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood somehow "sold out" when they began to find a market for their art. The series really pushes the notion that the Pre-Raphaelites were somehow the first artists to commercialise their work (and that this was a betrayal of their earlier, nobler ideals). Artists and writers have always wanted to profit from their work. It's pure romantic fantasy to imagine that there was some golden age of art where everyone indulged in art for art's sake without an eye toward profits. The PRB simply lucked out by being in the right place at the right time, and they took advantage of the technology that was available to them. I'm quite sure that if Sir Joshua Reynolds had lived through the Victorian era, he too would have been hawking his lithographs right alongside the former members of the PRB. You will remember that even the socialist William Morris was a businessman! It seems very hard for the BBC to conceive of the possibility that one might simultaneously be a romantic revolutionary and hope to pay the rent.

For those of you living in the UK, several of the episodes are available in streaming video online through the BBC Pre-Raphaelites mini site.

Episode 2, which covers the Pre-Raphaelites approach to landscape art, will be aired again on August 11 at 10:00 pm.


Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Any idea when this is coming to the states??

Anne said...

I think the same person who posted the Desperate Romantics episodes on YouTube may have also posted at least part of the documentary.

The Nightwatchman said...

These programmes were on, a couple of months ago over here in the UK. I saw them then and thought they were very good.

Not sure how you can get to see them, but N Gaiman suggested that you could get the BBC computer to think that you live in the UK. Sorry, I don't know how to do it or I could watch US/Canada shows!

Episode 3 has a comment, if I remember it correctly, by Millais - 'I painted for fame, now I paint for money'. It discussed how advertising picked up on the visual aspect of the paintings.

Lady of Shallot is one of my favourite PRB pictures.

Teresa Howard said...

I think they are stressing this commercial aspect so that it ties in with the main thrust of the TV Drama series. The producer Franny Moyle also wrote the book Desperate Romantics. Franny conceived the idea and has gone all out to make sure this was a very commercial project, maybe there is more FM than PRB in this commercial thrust.

Morris did make a lot of money but money was not his aim, his aim was to produce craftsman made art for all. Sadly he never achieved that. It ended up being art for the rich because they were the only people who could afford hand crafted work.

Rowan said...

Thanks for this, I didn't realise there was a documentary as well, I have it in my planner for tonight now.

nicolette said...

Somehow, when an artist push his works commercially, he is labeled as a sell out, even when the same quality and beauty is retained. But I digress.


Venus said...

I have been keeping a watch to see if this comes to the States but no sign yet, at least that I can see. News anyone in the U.S.?