The Rampart of God's House by John Melhuish Strudwick, 1849-1937. Oil on canvas. Source: 1891 Art-Journal. Collection of Mr. W. Imrie, of Liverpool (as of 1891). See commentary below. [Click on image to enlarge it.]


Commentary by George Bernard Shaw in the 1891 Art-Journal

The execution of these easel pictures is smooth, and the method of representation simply drawing on the flat surface and colouring it: Holbein, Hogarth, Bellini were not more exact and straightforward than Strudwick. The pictures are finished up to the point at which further elaboration would add nothing to the artistic value of the picture; and there the work stops, not a stroke being wasted. Thus a typical Strudwick is not "finished" as a typical Meissonier is; but it costs more pains to produce. No matter how minutely a painter copies a model in the costume of a certain period, with appropriate furniture and accessories, his labour is as nothing compared to that of the man who creates his figures and invents all the circumstances and accessories. This is what Strudwick does. For instance, the censer in 'The Ramparts of God's House' is not to be purchased in Wardour Street, nor the angels' dresses hired in Bow Street, nor the sculptured marble seat copied at the Musee Cluny, nor the heads found on the shoulders of any living model. And not only are these pictures entirely invented, they are also exhaustively thought out, an important part in their excellence; for a painter may be so hasty and superficial in snatching at the first image his imagination offers him as to make one regret that he did not stick to the usual plan of painting some likely young woman of his acquaintance, and labelling her as one of Shakespeare's heroines. The concep101 tion of the Strudwick picture is as exhaustive as the execution; and this is what makes it so thorough and impressive. You sometimes remember a Strudwick better than you remember even a Burne-Jones of the same year. 

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Shaw, George Bernard. "J.M. Strudwick". Art Journal (1891): 99-101 Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 8 April 2014

Last modified 8 April 2014