David Wilkie: The People's Painter

David Wilkie: The People's Painter

Nicholas Tromans

Language: English

Pages: 302

ISBN: 0748625208

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

This is the first modern book about the artist David Wilkie (1785-1841), the first British painter to become an international celebrity. Based on extensive original research, the book explores the ways in which Wilkie's images, so beloved by his contemporaries, engaged with a range of cultural predicaments close to their hearts. In a series of thematic chapters, whose concerns range far beyond the details of Wilkie's own career, Tromans shows how, through Wilkie's thrillingly original work, British society was able to reimagine its own everyday life, its history, and its multinational (Anglo-Scottish) nature. Other themes covered include Wilkie's roles in defining the border between painting and anatomy in the representation of the human body, and in transforming the pleasures of connoisseurship from an elite to a popular audience. For the first time, all of Wilkie's major subject pictures are brought together, reproduced and discussed. With a great range of new archival material and original interp

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with the Girl’s Cap). Mulready showed his Returning from the Ale-House (Fig. 1.6) at the Academy in 1809, causing the critic of the women’s magazine Ackermann’s Repository to fulminate: Are all violations of decency and propriety to be tolerated, because the Dutch painters practised them? To our feelings, human nature does not present any more obscene or disgusting spectacle than a drunken father surrounded by his children; and yet, this is what Mr Mulready has chosen to make the subject of a

straightforward way in which Wilkie maintained a grip upon his ‘chain of circumstance’ was to set his scenes indoors. All the pictures we have mentioned thus far are interiors, with the exceptions of Pitlessie Fair, the Village Holiday and the Chelsea Pensioners. Wilkie made heavy weather of preparing for the landscape elements of the Village Holiday, painting various little nature studies, although in the end the picture scarcely includes anything much in the way of scenery after all. Later, as

final picture was a very long and painstaking process which involved assimilating further suggestions from the Duke as well as innovations of his own, and was only completed in 1822. Set outside the Royal Chelsea Hospital for retired and invalided soldiers, Wilkie imagines the moment when a mixed bunch of serving soldiers, pensioners and their hangers-on hear the news of the final defeat of Bonaparte at Waterloo. The composition is essentially in two parts, the male group around the table and

Bible open on the table as to the distinguished visitor. The idea later got around that the physician was a portrait of Carlisle, which is intriguing but unverifiable.72 But, even if we do not take the picture as a visual vote in favour of Carlisle, it is surely a riposte to Bell in the sense that, as he had sought to put painting in its refined but restricted place – as the provider of expression to the anatomical subject – so Wilkie here casts the medical man in a comparably limited role, as a

the Waterloo Despatch. While we may continue to treat Constable’s picture as a profound cultural symbol, the fact is that, on the evidence available, it was not one for most of his contemporaries.14 This book is an effort to redress this imbalance. Notes 11 See Bourdieu, ‘The Biographical Illusion’, for a brief statement of the inevitable conceptual incoherences within biography. Wilkie’s friend Introduction 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 10 11 12 Allan Cunningham rapidly compiled and published

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