Imagining intimacy : rhetoric, love and the loss of Raphael.

Paul Barlow

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This article looks at the problem of historical narrative painting in terms of the idealisation of Raphaelesque conventions. It deals with the neglected “Raphaelitism” that Pre-Raphaelitism claimed to reject, seeking to articulate what is termed here an aesthetic of intimacy in contrast to the alienating surface complexity of Pre-Raphaelite art. The aesthetic of intimacy downplays pictorial surface but plays on the ideal of the penetration of surface itself as a revelation of the form of truth to which art gestures. O’Neil’s paintings use the model of Raphael’s pictorial “softness” in order to develop a pictorial strategy in which the viewer is encouraged to attend to the subtle variations of body language. The article appeared in a themed issue of Visual Culture in Britain that was edited by Barlow himself. It is part of the same broad project as Barlow’s monograph, Time present and time past: The Art of John Everett Millais, namely the re-examination of models of “progressive” art by exploring ways in which artists formerly deemed to be “academic” were engaging in complex ways with the problems of representation and tradition. Barlow’s Introduction and the issue as a whole addresses the question of modernity in relation to the conceptualisation of history painting. In this instance, however, the intent is to examine the problem further by looking at an artist who specifically positioned himself as an enemy of stylistic innovation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-36
JournalVisual Culture in Britain
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005


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