lthough the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the classical idealism favored by Sir Joshua Reynolds had very different conceptions of what constituted proper style in painting, both were extraordinarily critical of David Wilkie's The Blind Fiddler (1807). Wilkie's oeuvre depicts a lower-class family listening to a fiddler in a modest household. The PRB found Wilkie's technique representative of what they viewed as the degradation of painting: the painting has one major source of light emanating from the right side; it has a pyramidal composition (the fiddler's head, the old man and the fiddler in the white hat form the points of the triangle); and the details fade at the edge of the canvas. Reynolds, on the other hand, found the subject matter, as opposed to the technique, distasteful. The PRB felt the path to elevating painting beyond Wilkie's staid interpretation lay in the blending of realist representation with typological symbolism.
1. How is this painting similar to the PRB? Specifically, what characteristics of the painting illustrate the PRB's raison d'etre?
2. Could this painting be seen as a transitional work of art — one which mcould bridge Reynolds' classicism and the PRB's iconography-infused realism? Why or why not?
3. How do the household objects in the foreground (stool, cup and saucer, etc) affect the composition? What is the significance of this?
4. The source of light seems to shine most strongly on the woman and child in the center of the painting. Is this a reference to the Virgin Mary and Jesus? How does that change the reading of the painting?
Last modified 10 September 2006