Victorian Public Domain Paintings and William Holman Hunt

Victorianweb Paintings is an exhaustive online collection of British painters from the Victorian period. Apparently the father of Violet Hunt was Alfred Hunt, a noted pre-Raphaalite painter at the time. To complicate things, there was a William Holman Hunt who, though he lived once at the same address, was not related. (I need to verify this).

George P. Landow wrote a great essay about the correspondence between William H. Hunt and Ruskin and Hunt’s admiration for Ruskin:

Part of his hostility, it seems clear, stems from his characteristic suspicion of any theorizing about art by someone not a professional artist, and sometimes this hostility prevented Hunt from recognizing how much he really agreed with Ruskin. For example, he wrote to his friend John L. Tupper on 15 May 1877: “I agree that Ruskin has done much harm to counter balance much good in giving people the trick of talking about Art instead of really doing a little of it to enable them to understand” (Hunt. MS Uncat. LF). Although admitting that Ruskin has done much good, Hunt ailed to recognize that the critic also wanted people to learn about art by its practice, and, in fact, devoted much of his time and energies to proselytizing for art education. Nonetheless, Hunt’s primary objection to Ruskin was his intellectual arrogance — in other words, that he was too much like himself, that he was too dogmatic, too theoretical, too convinced by his own enthusiasms. As he wrote to his friend Thomas Combe from Jerusalem in May 1872, Ruskin needed a little humility: “You said in a previous letter that Mrs. Combe is beginning to learn something about Art by attending the Ruskin lectures. I wish she would teach me for I find the longer I study and work the less confidence I have in my own knowledge. I think Ruskin might also be benefited by a little instruction on the subject altho’ I don’t think he has yet got to that point at which philosophers begin to feel they know nothing” (Rylands Eng. MS. 1213129). Not until he became friendly with Ruskin after an interval of many years did he take him on his own terms, recognizing his own important debts to him.

The writer George P. Landow has written several books about British literary history (generally 19th century), painting and other such. Now here’s the great part: he has 5 books of literary criticism completely online!

Bravo to him!

More on George P. Landow. He also started the Cyberartsweb , which consists of a lot of hypertext authors (some name I actually recognize). (See also the related AltX which consists of the EBR/Mark Amerika/Eastgate crowd).

Unfortunately all their ebooks seem to be on PDFs, which was a poor decision, though perhaps it can’t be helped. This is a case that underscores the need to have your source material in as neutral a format as possible (OEBPS 1.2). Nothing is wrong per se with Eastgate and other hypertext systems, but will they ever make the transition to the next platform? And will the author have the technical proficiency to manage it?

While we’re on the subject of hypertext: Just after graduating from college, I had a choice between attending the Brown or the JHU creative writing programs in 1988. Both were highly regarded bastions of postmodernism. Both had distinguished writers (John Hawkes and Robert Coover at Brown, Steve Dixon and John Barth at JHU–and as it turns out, J.M. Coetzee as well). John Barth was happily keeping tabs on cyberpunk fiction and the hypertext experiments at Brown. (Brown U. became the capitol of that literary movement for a while) Barth thought they were out there, but he applauded the experimentalism at least.

Of course, JHU didn’t mold me into the writer I am today. But it called attention to certain aspects of my writing. Dixon: the frenetic absurdism, Barth: the cerebral hedonism of the fabulists and Coetzee, the allegorical deconstructionist sensitive to inner psychologies. I often wonder about the paths not takes.



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