Walthamstow’s own Chapel End Savoy Players could not have chosen a better time to revive Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience. The public appetite for the 2012 Tate Exhibition Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde (now heading to Moscow via Washington DC), proves that modern audiences are not only receptive, but downright enthusiastic about exploring Pre-Raphaelitism and its legacy.
Sending up the poseurs who tried unsuccessfully to imitate the fashionable excesses of the ‘greenery-yallery, Grosvenor Gallery’ crowd, Patience satirises the developing aestheticism of the late 1870s and early 1880s. This ‘ultra-poetical, super-aesthetical’ craze had its origins in what Robert Buchanan labelled Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s ‘Fleshly School’ of poetry, and in what was perceived as an unhealthy Pre-Raphaelite predilection for morbid, sensual and pseudo-medieval themes and motifs, or, as Patience puts it, 'uttering platitudes in stained-glass attitudes'.
Victorian Obsession, the new exhibition at Leighton House, has once again turned modern critics into Victorian ones. As I have banged on about elsewhere, (HERE and HERE) today’s critics uncannily (and perhaps unconsciously) echo the opinions of their nineteenth-century Royal-Academy-loving forebears in expressing their distaste for the childishness, vulgarity and escapism which they see as characteristic of Pre-Raphaelite artists and their followers.