Wednesday, October 25, 2017

326. The Pageant & The Dial

Two weeks ago I wrote about the digital edition of The Pageant (1896-1897) prepared by Frederick D. King (The University of Western Ontario). King spoke about the change of the Aesthetic Movement around the time of publication of the two volumes of this magazine that was edited by Charles Shannon and Gleeson White, while Ricketts was deeply involved.

King talked about The Pageant at the North American Victorian Studies Association's supernumerary conference in Florence (17 May 2017). He kindly sent me the text.

According to King, by 1895, the Aesthetic Movement emphasized Decadence and 'evocations of sexual dissidence', but for The Pageant the editors settled for 'art history and the material production of British Aestheticism'. Their selection of essays and artists placed the Aestheticism in a historical frame, comparing contemporary art to that of the Pre-Raphaelites, the French Symbolist movement, and the bookmakers and wood-engravers of the Renaissance.

King analyzed four essays on art, one of which is by Gleeson White, who, in his essay about Ricketts wrote that Ricketts's designs are 'subtle, and do not seek to shock the reader in the manner of a Beardsley illustration'. However, their sensuality and eroticism should be considered to be part of a long tradition starting with the Italian woodcuts of the Renaissance. This way, the importance of the contribution of the Aesthetic Movement to print culture was emphasized. Theoretically, the movement was linked to Walter Pater's theory of the Renaissance.

The Pageant, I would like to add, was not the only magazine that explored these new connections for the Aesthetic Movement. Ricketts's and Shannon's The Dial that had appeared since 1889 was an infrequent witness of their ideas. The last issues were published in 1895 and 1897, and show, not surprisingly, the same shift in focus from Symbolism and Decadent poetry to a broader history of art, especially the Renaissance.

From The Dial (No. 1, 1889)
The Dial No 1 (1889) included two essays on French symbolism: (1) 'Puvis de Chavannes' and (2) 'Les Goncourt'.
The Dial No 2 (1892), again, included an essay on Puvis de Chavannes, and contained poems by two decadent French poets: Verlaine and Rimbaud.
The Dial No 3 (1893) presented pieces on symbolist painting ('Gustave Moreau'), decadent poetry (Rimbaud), but also to early Victorian art ('Garth Wilkinson'), and to French Renaissance poetry (Ronsard) and Italian literature ('St Francis of Assisi').
The Dial No 4 (1895) discussed another Decadent French artist (Huysmans), but also contained a poem by Michael Field on Tintoretto.
The Dial No 5 (1897) included a translation from a work by Maurice de GuĂ©rin, and contained an essay on nineteenth-century Japanese art by Utamaro.

From The Dial (No. 5, 1897)
The shift from Decadent and Symbolist work to a wider perspective including Italian and Japanese art was already manifest in The Dial from 1893 onwards, suggesting that King's interpretation of The Pageant's course was in accordance with Ricketts's and Shannon's artistic development. 

Around the same time, Shannon started to work on his Renaissance inspired portraits  and paintings, aspiring to become the Titian of the early 1900s, while Ricketts took examples from continental printing (especially French and Italian Renaissance type, initial letters and decorations) for his Vale Press designs.