The Beautiful Art Revival: A Passion for the Pre-Raphaelites –

chivalry The Beautiful Art Revival: A Passion for the Pre Raphaelites   artmarketblog.comFor as long as I have been writing about the art market, the word “beauty” has been thought of by many as a sort of dirty word – especially to the cutting-edge contemporary art crowd many of whom would cringe at the its mere mention.

Often perceived as being indulgent, bourgeois and a waste of time, the pursuit of beauty in fine art has, until recently, remained somewhat of a best-forgotten quest of the frequently ill-perceived Victorian era.

There is, however, a whiff of change in the air as the art world and the art market begin to realise that beautiful art doesn’t necessarily have to be boring or bourgeois.

The exhibition Victorian Visions: Pre-Raphaelite and Nineteenth-Century Art from the John Schaeffer Collection, recently held at Leighton House Museum, and the current TATE Pre-Raphaelite exhibition, are testament to a revived interest in beautiful works of art.

It is perhaps because there is more to Pre-Raphaelite art than beauty for the sake of beauty that people have changed the way they view the artistic pursuit of beauty.  Tantalising tales, subversive stares, mannerist-inspired distortions, masculine maidens and prurient poses – all common characteristics of Pre-Raphaelite art, yet completely discordant with the definition of beauty.

As the market for Pre-Raphaelite art responds do the recent major exhibitions, artists such as Lord Frederick Leighton, John William Waterhouse, William Holman Hunt, G.F. Watts and Solomon J Solomon are set to become increasingly popular.

The announcement by Christie’s that two works from the collection of John Schaeffer will be offered in the sale of Victorian & British Impressionist Art on 13 December 2012 is further evidence of the growing interest in art of the Victorian age, and more specifically, the work of Pre-Raphaelite artists.

Fresh from a six-month loan to Leighton House for the Pre-Raphaelite and Nineteenth-Century Art from the John Schaeffer Collection, The Wrestling Scene in ‘As You Like It’ by Daniel Maclise R.A. (1806-1870) and Chivalry by Sir Francis Dicksee P.R.A. (1853-1928) are being heralded as two highlights of the Christie’s sale – Chivalry being on the cover of the catalogue.

According to Christie’s, Chivalry, by Sir Francis Bernard Dicksee, is one of the artist’s most attractive works and is a wonderful embodiment of late Victorian romanticism at its most theatrical and uninhibited (estimate: £600,000 – 800,000).

Maclise’s The Wrestling Scene in ‘As You Like It’ is a rare illustration to Shakespeare on such a scale, and is one of the artist’s finest works. The picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1855 and depicts a wrestling match from Act I, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It.

Estimated to fetch £300,000 – 500,000, the Maclise masterpiece was last sold at auction in February 2003 when it fetched £314,650 against an estimate of £300,000 – 500,000 at Christie’s The Forbes Collection of Victorian Pictures and Works of Art sale.

Over the past 25 years John Schaeffer has been one of the world’s most prominent collectors of British nineteenth-century art.  His nearest rival, Andrew Lloyd Webber, might have the upper hand on Schaeffer when it comes to dollars spent on Pre-Raphaelite art but Schaeffer is definitely the more passionate and devoted of the two.

Victorian & British Impressionist Art
13 December 2012
London, King Street


Sir Frank Dicksee, P.R.A. (1853-1928)
indistinctly signed and dated ‘FRANK DICKSEE/-1885-’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
71 7/8 x 53¾ in. (182.7 x 136.6 cm.)

*Nicholas Forrest is a Sydney/London based art market analyst, art consultant and writer.  He is the founder of the Art Market Blog ( which offers independent commentaries as well as research and analysis on the current art market, and has recently been published in Fabrik magazine, Verve magazine, Visual Art Beat magazine, Australian Art Collector magazine, Art & Investment magazine and many others.  Nic has made several radio appearances (both nationally and internationally) as an art market expert and has received press from the likes of the New York Times, Conde Nast Portfolio and Times of London.

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