The English Miniature

John Murdoch, Jim Murrell, Patrick J. Noon and Roy Strong –

Peter Quennell | Published in 30 Jun 1982

The seventieth Royal Academy Exhibition, during the first year of Queen Victoria's reign, displayed, we learn from this highly informative and splendidly illustrated book, over two hundred miniatures executed by some thirty artists. Miniature-painting was a long-lived and peculiarly English art. No other European country could claim to have supported a 'continuous and flourishing school' of miniaturists for nearly four centuries; and not until the 1860s did it begin to lose its popular appeal. About 1845, however, an artist named Alfred Tidey had already prophesied its imminent decline. When he submitted a miniature genre- scene, Boy with White Mice to Samuel Rogers, the well-known 'Banker-Bard', the aged connoisseur had praised it warmly. It was 'better than Murillo', he said, and he 'strongly advised me to continue to work in the same style'. But Tidey lacked the courage to tell him 'that, tho' many admired the work, no one had offered to buy it... At this very time the dawn of Photography was threatening to annihilate Miniature Painting as an art'.

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