Type of Document Dissertation Author McKeown, William Carlisle URN etd-04112005-162738 Title 'England's Giorgione': Charles H. Shannon and Venetianism in Late Victorian Art Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Art History, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Lauren Weingarden Committee Chair Adam Jolles Committee Member Michael Barclay Committee Member Robert Neuman Committee Member Stanley Gontarski Committee Member Keywords
Date of Defense 2004-12-07 Availability unrestricted AbstractThis dissertation studies the paintings and lithographs of Charles Hazelwood Shannon within the context of British Venetianism. Shannon clearly derived many stylistic elements and figurative motifs from Venetian Renaissance art. By doing so, he was at once following a British tradition of Venetianism, and reformulating it for a modern era.
The history of British Venetianism has not been a smooth or consistent one. Within Charles Iís court and through the intermediary of Anthony Van Dyckís paintings, the Venetian style became closely associated with royalist concepts and aristocratic privileges in seventeeth-century Britain. By contrast, much of the Venetianist discourse of the eighteenth century can be characterized as anti-Venetianist. In eighteenth-century British texts, Venetian art is repeatedly conflated with Venetian society, and both are condemned for a perceived licentiousness. This literary reprobation of Venetianism stands in strong contrast to the continued collecting of Venetian paintings by aristocrats, and to the painting practices of British artists like Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Throughout the nineteenth century, Venetianism is reevaluated. Nevertheless, Victorian Venetianism encompasses many contradictory points of view inherited from earlier periods. These contradictions are well-represented by the critics John Ruskin and Walter Pater. While the former critic emphasized the moral role of honest labor in the creation of art, the latter stressed the distinction between the prosaic realm of morality and the purposeless beauty of the aesthetic world. However, both critics would use Venetian art to advance their arguments, and they both believed that art was of the highest importance for modern British culture.
In his artwork, Shannon would engaged with all of these previous forms of Venetianism. He patterned many of his portraits after the example of Van Dyck and Titian; he countered the vestiges of anti-Venetianism with his sensual depictions of nudes based on Venetian and Hellenistic prototypes; he infused his work with a Ruskinian sense of craftsmanship, as is particularly evident in his finely-made lithographs; and he evokes Paterian aesthetics in painting beautiful figures removed from any obvious narrative action.
Shannonís Venetianism was recognized as progressive from the 1890s through the first decade of the twentieth century. Contemporary art historians and critics emphasized the continuity between Venetian Renaissance painting and modern European art, and Shannonís work was understood as part of this continuum. Shannonís progressive credentials can be measured by the avant-garde groups with whom he exhibited, and by the collectors who sought after his work. Nevertheless, his work was ultimately incompatible with the rising scene of modernist art. Modernist art in Britain, and the formalist theories which supported it, was largely born out of Paterian Venetianism. However, the modernist disavowal of European traditions of painting would spell the end for Shannonís particular version of Venetianism.
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