past one of the biggest problems that has plagued the market for Victorian paintings is the lack of academic and curatorial attention that the artists of the period have received. Over the last ten years academics and scholars have, however, begun to take the work of Victorian artists much more seriously, which has resulted in a number of major exhibitions such as:
‘Exposed: The Victorian Nude’ held at the Tate Britain in 2002
‘Love & Death: Art in the Age of Queen Victoria’ held at various locations in Australia during 2002/3
‘Pre-Raphaelite Vision: Truth to Nature’ held at the Tate Britain in 2004
‘Masterworks of Victorian Art from the Collection of John H. Schaeffer’ held at the BYU Museum of Art in 2008
‘Victorian Paintings from the Museo de Arte de Ponc’ held in Spain in 2009
‘Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage’, a touring exhibition that is currently showing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
It is worth noting that there has been a significant increase in the interest that Americans are showing in Victorian art, which has been fuelled partly by several major exhibitions of Victorian art that have gone on show in America over the last ten years. According to the curator of the Californian Palace of the Legion of Honour, an American museum that purchased a major Victorian painting by John Roddam Spencer Stanhome in 2003, “Following a number of popular museum exhibitions recently, there has been a sea-change in the appreciation of Victorian art in America.” (The Daily Telegraph London, January 27th 2003).
Another major exhibition of Victorian paintings is about to go on show (May 20) at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. The exhibition, titled ‘Victorian visions: Nineteenth-century art from the John Schaeffer Collection’, “presents an impressive collection of some 45 paintings, watercolours, drawings and sculptures by some of the luminaries of Victorian art, including works by Rossetti, Holman Hunt, Burne-Jones, Leighton, Poynter, Watts and Waterhouse” from the collection of John Schaeffer. Schaeffer is an Australian entrepreneur and art collector whose collection of 19th century European art, rumoured to number more than 500 works, is considered to be one of the best in the world. Until recently there were rumours that Schaeffer, one of the biggest buyers of Victorian paintings in past years, had withdrawn from the market. Schaeffer’s absence from the salerooms, combined with a minor sell-off of works from his collection, caused a panic that saw confidence in the market for Victorian paintings drop. The rumours were proven to be untrue when Schaeffer purchased a large painting by the late-Victorian symbolist Solomon Joseph Solomon titled ‘Birth of Eve’ at a Sotheby’s auction in December 2009. Schaeffer purchased the 10ft canvas for a record £713,250 – well above the artist’s previous auction record of £35,000.
The effect that the Schaeffer rumours had on the market for Victorian paintings is an example of another problem that the market for Victorian paintings needs to overcome.