Sir David Wilkie's The Blind Fiddler examplifies the sort of conventional art that the Pre-Raphaelites challenged at mid-nineteenth century. Wilkie uses strong contrast and a palette of rich, earthy tones to depict a common domestic scene. Using the common technique of the Academy, he shines a strong source of light on the figure of the mother and child on the right, while the other subjects are partially illuminated by a softer light coming from the left side of the painting. The grouping of figures in the center of the work also follows the conventional style of British painting of the time. The Pre-Raphaelites called all of these artistic conventions into question.

Questions

1. What is it about the artistic conventions of the Academy that the Pr-Raphaelites are resisting? Specifically, what are the consequences of conventions like using a certain pyramidal grouping of figures or using one strong light source and one softer one? Are there political and social implications of these conventions that the Pre-Raphaelites are questioning, as well?

2. In actuality, how different is The Blind Fiddler than some of the works of the PRB? What are the concrete distinctions to be made between this work and what the Pre-Raphaelites were trying to strive for?

3. Is there any evidence of typological symbolism in Wilkie's painting? Do the sources of light, use of animals, or humble objects in the front point to any deeper meaning?


Victorian Web Visual Arts Painting Discussion Questions

Last modified 12 September 2004