decorated initial 'S'ir David Wilkie's The Blind Fiddler (1806) epitomizes the antithesis of Joshua Reynold's style, choosing to appeal to the masses rather an aristocratic audience. The Blind Fiddler clearly depicts a lower-class gathering, a family taking joy in the abundance of itself, juxtaposed against their shabby environs. This painting is quite the opposite of Reynold's court paintings where his subjects take their pleasure in their lavish belongings and their own air of importance. Wilkie's attempt at appealing to the lower masses and generating a larger market by representing aspects of their own reality recalls both the writing of Dickens, and more closely, the painting of the Northern Renaissance artists, such as De Hooch, Vermeer, and Jan Van Eyck. Their subjects were drunkards in their pubs, milkmaids in the kitchen, and townspeople fulfilling the daily activities required for their survival, and were produced and reproduced for a large middle-class market. The Netherlandish artists filled their paintings with allegory and symbolism recognizable to their audience. Such common themes as "The old pipe and the young twitter" appear often in more than one painter's work. The PRB were likewise interested in representing more than seems aesthetically evident in their paintings. Knowing these similarities, certain questions may be raised about Wilkie's painting and its relationship to Netherlandish artists and influence.

Questions

1. although the market for artists such as Vermeer and De Hooch was already present to embrace their work, it seems not quite so in Wilkie's case. To what extent was there a market aimed at middle-class consumers in England during the nineteenth century?

2. Was Wilkie a pioneer in terms of revolutionizing the subject matter from classical ideals to common, realistic scenes? If not, who were his predecessors in this movement or his inspirations?

3. To what extent did Netherlandish artists directly influence his subject matter?


Victorian Web Visual Arts Painting Discussion Questions

Last modified 12 September 2004