Natures Truth: Photography, Painting, and Science in Victorian Britain

Hardcover | August 24, 2016

byAnne Helmreich

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“Truth to Nature,” a rallying cry for those artists and critics aiming to reform art-making practices in Great Britain over the course of the nineteenth century, bound together artists as diverse as Pre-Raphaelite John Everett Millais, photographer P. H. Emerson, and bohemian modernist Augustus John. In order to understand “truth,” these artists turned to the rising disciplines of science, which offered new insights into physical phenomena, vision, and perception.

Drawing on sources ranging from artists’ letters to scientific treatises, Nature’s Truth illuminates the dynamic relationship between art and science throughout the nineteenth century. Anne Helmreich reveals how these practices became closely aligned as artists sought to maintain art’s relevance in a world increasingly defined by scientific innovation, technological advances, and a rapidly industrializing society. Eventually, despite consensus between artists and critics about the need for “truth to nature,” the British arts community sharply contested what constituted truth and how truth to nature as an ideal could be visually represented. By the early twentieth century, the rallying cry could no longer hold the reform movement together. Helmreich’s fascinating study shows, however, that this relatively short-lived movement had a profound effect on modern British art.

An insightful examination of changing conceptions of truth and the role of art in modern society, Nature’s Truth reframes and recontextualizes our notions of British art.

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“Truth to Nature,” a rallying cry for those artists and critics aiming to reform art-making practices in Great Britain over the course of the nineteenth century, bound together artists as diverse as Pre-Raphaelite John Everett Millais, photographer P. H. Emerson, and bohemian modernist Augustus John. In order to understand “truth,” the...

Anne Helmreich is Dean of the College of Fine Arts at Texas Christian University. Her most recent book is The Rise of the Modern Art Market in London, 1850–1939 (2011), coedited with Pamela Fletcher.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:264 pages, 10 × 9 × 0.98 inPublished:August 24, 2016Publisher:Penn State University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0271071141

ISBN - 13:9780271071145

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Contents

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1 Truth to Nature and the “Innocent Eye”

2 John Everett Millais and John Brett: The Rise of Imagination and the Crisis of Pre-Raphaelitism

3 P. H. Emerson and George Clausen: Renouncing the Quest

4 Neorealism: Truth to Nature in Modernist Critical Debate

Conclusion

Notes

Bibliography

Index

Editorial Reviews

“Anne Helmreich’s brilliant new book makes us rethink Victorian art, the development of British artistic modernism, and the history of visual perception. Returning us to a time when art and science worked closely in dialogue, Helmreich eloquently traces the changing meanings of ‘truth to nature’—objective, factual recording of detail, or subjective, imaginative response. Astute, detailed analysis of paintings and photographs combines with extensive reading in primary works, rendering this an original and illuminating study.”—Kate Flint, author of The Victorians and the Visual Imagination