In keeping with their fascination with medieval times, it makes sense that the Pre-Raphaelites would take up Hogarth's route and place text directly in their images. This technique resurfaces throughout history, from medieval illuminated manuscripts to the paintings of Magritte (This is not a pipe) and the contemporary Ed Ruscha. Like medieval manuscripts, may of the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites are integrally tied to a text; this is generally shown through the painting's title, but in some cases the painter integrated text into the canvas itself. The advantage of doing so lies in the ability to draw an explicit connection between the image and a particular passage, and possibly in the aesthetic quality of the words themselves (e.g. the medieval-esque font of Hughes's Ophelia).

Hogarth, in his heavily satirical and realistic work, does not seem to be nodding towards medievalism by his incorporation of text. Beer Street and Gin Lane, for example, would not mean much without their titles; Industry and Idleness would not take on the same moralistic quality without its integrated text.

Questions

How does the context of Hogarth's work differ from the texts that the Pre-Raphaelites tried to recall? Does this change the nature of the attempt to signify text through visual representation?

Does the semi-circular shape of Arthur Hughes's Ophelia — admired by Millais — signify anything? The shape seems uncommon for the PRB; it was used by Raphael so successfully in the Vatican Apartments.

How does Hughes use text in the heavily gothic/international style triptych The Eve of St. Agnes? What Christian connotations does the painting carry?

In general, how can we judge these paintings without the heavily literary context which their painters intended to set them in? Is it possible to do so?


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Last modified 6 February 2008