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What Are Victorian Paintings?

19th Century Fine Art Legacy

Victorian paintings were created by artists during the Victorian timeframe of 1837 to 1901. Victorian paintings encompass movements such as Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Realism, and Impressionism.

Bedford Fine Art Gallery has about 80% Victorian paintings for sale and roughly 20% contemporary paintings for sale. The general theme of our Victorian paintings for sale is realism. While the battle between Neoclassicists and Romanticists was reaching its height, Realism began in the late 1840’s.

Realistic Victorian paintings were painted as accurately as possible from nature. Most of the Realists were dedicated to a new social order founded on justice for the working class. Prior to Victorian paintings, artists primarily received commissions to paint portraits of noble figures and historical and military compositions. The rise of the industrial age in the Victorian timeframe changed the art market and a rise in a wealthy middle-class patron was born. People back then and today appreciate Victorian paintings that are very realistic, where the artist’s attention to detail did not idealize the work.

The Realists concentration on visual reality stimulated the Impressionists, all of whom began as Realists and continued to call themselves that until their later exploration of the play of light in art.

Victorian paintings that are very realistic are just as popular now as they were in the past. Realistic Victorian paintings owe some of their remarkable precision to their worthy forebears, the Dutch and Flemish naturalists of the seventeenth century.

The influence of realistic Victorian paintings spread throughout Europe and great American artists started to arrive in France in the late 1860s. These American artists were deeply impressed by the work of the French Barbizon painters, as well as by Corot and Courbet. A good example of a great American artist that travelled to Paris to advance his art education is Charles Augustus “Shorty” Lasar. Lasar was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania and in Paris he studied under Jean Leon Gerome.

Mary Cassatt and Thomas Eakins, considered by many to have been one of America’s greatest native-born artists, also both studied under Gerome.

Lasar opened an atelier, where he taught art to English-speaking female artists. Cecilia Beaux, considered the finest woman painter of the nineteenth century and a friend of “Shorty’s”, described him as a funny little man with intensely bright eyes and dark hair, standing around – and his legs about two feet long.” Beaux felt that Shorty’s lessons were too technical; she preferred a more intuitive approach to painting. However, she observed that Lasar’s students clung to his structures as if to a lifeline.

Lasar was prolific in many styles of his Victorian paintings, including Realism, Tonalism, Impressionism, French Barbizon School, etc.

Another good example of realistic Victorian paintings, for sale at Bedford Fine Art Gallery, are by George Hetzel. He was born in France, but immigrated with his family to America in 1828. They settled in Allegheny City (Pittsburgh’s North Side). In his teens Hetzel began an apprenticeship with a painter with whom he helped decorate river boat cabins and murals for Pittsburgh saloons. Hetzel’s father recognized his sons talent and sent him to the Dusseldorf Art Academy for formal training. Hetzel’s early paintings reflect his Dusseldorf training – the use of chiaroscuro and the realism for which the Academy was known. Hetzel eventually formed his own school called the Scalp Level School. Victorian paintings produced by the Scalp Level School of artists are beautiful and realistic.

Prior to Victorian paintings, the least essential part of a composition was thought to be the environmental aspects of the painting. During the time of Victorian paintings, however, artists would typically work outside to generate drawings and then later return to their studio to use these drawings as references to produce a larger final Victorian painting. These landscape Victorian paintings, back then and today, are typically vibrant photographic-like paintings inspired by nature. In addition to Victorian paintings of landscapes, Bedford Fine Art Gallery also sells Victorian paintings of seascapes, portraits, and animals.

A great Victorian painter of animals was James N. Hess. Hess was a native Pennsylvania and died at the age of 32. Because he died at such a young age, Victorian paintings by Hess are rare. Bedford Fine Art Gallery is proud to have great examples of Hess’s work and in 1886 Hess was featured in the Pennsylvania Historical Review”, which stated: “To lovers of the beautiful in art the handsomely appointed studio of Mr. J. N. Hess presents many attractions as upon its walls are to be found many pictures that bear the stamp of originality of conception and marked artistic ability. Mr. Hess is a native of Pennsylvania and is well known in the art and social circles of this city. He has profited by a thorough and practical training and this, coupled with his natural adaptability for his profession, has enabled him to attain to his present enviable position as a painter. He is prepared to execute every description of work, making a specialty of animal portraiture, and in addition to painting pictures to order he has a choice collection which he offers at remarkably reasonable prices. Mr. Hess is thoroughly qualified in every respect to give the utmost satisfaction to patrons.”

For over 30 years, Bedford Fine Art Gallery has specialized in finding the best Victorian paintings available. This article only gives you examples of a few artists that have created the many outstanding Victorian paintings we sell. We have over 300 artists represented at our fine art gallery and on our website. The Victorian paintings from these artists are, like our customers, the best-of-the-best!

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