Art Annotated Bibliography

This list came out of a research project, in which I investigated the connections between visual art and literary art in the work of the Brontes.  Many of these sources have more information than the amount I explained; my annotations focus solely on what was mentioned as far as art (both visual and literary) is concerned.

 Alexander investigates Charlotte Bronte’s experiences with art to show that Charlotte’s familiarity with visual art helped her to develop detailed pictorial descriptions in her writing.  Alexander explains that Charlotte was familiar with the art of the times and art criticism via publications like Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine and various Annuals.  She also learned art techniques herself by copying engravings of other artists’ works.  The importance of Romantic ideas about Nature and the picturesque, spread by authors like Wordsworth and Scott, also helped shape Charlotte’s ideas about how to view and portray her surroundings.

Alexander and Sellars explain how the Brontes learned their artistic skills and record the various artistic influences on the siblings.  They give an in-depth analysis of each sibling’s experiences in art, and also provide an extensive catalog of each Bronte’s pieces of art.

 Apter suggests that Nature is plotted against society in Wuthering Heights.  The author also suggests that the Romantic love between Heathcliff and Cathy is generated by their destructive natures; because their love is so passionate to the point of selfishness, they create the destructive atmosphere which at once attaches and separates them.  In Wuthering Heights, passion is not about an attractive longing for another, but about something much more sinister—a willingness to destroy oneself in a quest for love.  Death is the only way for Heathcliff and Cathy to be together in peace—the world cannot contain their passion.

 Chitham makes a possible connection between the Anne Bronte and Caspar David Friedrich as an influence on her paintings, especially influencing her in the idea of the unity between Nature and God.  In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne uses visual art to depict Helen's feelings.  Chitham explains that Anne's purpose in art was to "benefit" her readers as well as amuse them.  Chitham also suggests that Anne was more interested in depicting a realistic story than her sister, Emily.

Emily uses natural imagery in Wuthering Heights to describe Heathcliff.  These descriptions further the idea of the non-human element of Heathcliff.  Ford’s point is that the relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff is very non-personal; their relationship is not dependent on being close to one another.

Anne tried to remain true to reality when she represented her characters.  Along with truthful characters, she also wanted to convey lessons in her writings.  However, it was important that her audience discover the lesson in her works for themselves.

 The sisters were instructed in art, and were fascinated by engravings and paintings.  While they were able to imagine designs for their own artwork, they were simply not skilled enough to realize such ideas.

 While Charlotte did not succeed in visual art, she did so in literary art.  Ian suggests that Charlotte's interest in physiognomy and phrenology helped her to represent her characters physically and morally.

 Knies suggests that truth was more important to Charlotte than artistic expression.  She was more interested in depicting an emotional truth than in refining her artistic technique.  She also expresses a revulsion to copying in literature as well as painting;  unless she is original, she should not write or paint.

Lucy learns art by copying, like most women of the day.  Kromm suggests that Lucy's view of good art is that art should reveal the true nature of the object, rather than try to express that nature through “transcendent” art, like allegory.  Also, Kromm points out that the three paintings that Mr. Rochester studies in Jane Eyre are reminiscent of both Bewick and John Martin. 

 Art is Helen's means of escape from her husband and his friends—she even uses a palette knife to defend herself against Hargrave.  Helen, as an artist, is unconventional, but Anne justifies Helen's unconventionality by making her a mother whose first concern is her son; she will sacrifice convention in order to protect him.  Helen's attraction to Huntingdon was motivated by the fact that he represented to her the freedom of Romanticism.  When Helen realizes that her husband is the only one who can save himself, her artwork reflects the change of mind—her paintings go from portraying the ideal to the realistic.  The ideal is deceptive, as seen when Helen's naive views of Huntingdon are rudely contradicted in his profligate behavior.  Nature also becomes something to dread, not something to be romanticized.

The main purpose of art is to convey something moral or ethical.  This end is obtained by portraying beauty, where beauty is the ideal depiction of an object.  By depicting the Ideal, viewers will be able to raise their thoughts to a higher level, therefore making them more refined and hopefully, virtuous.  Wark explains that Reynold's ideas which were considered more Romantic included:  1) connections between a piece of art and those of the great Masters would make the art appear greater in the viewer’s eye, 2) his assertion that art must appeal to the imagination, and 3) his openness to different styles of art.  Wark also explains that Reynolds was strongly influenced by the classicism of the Age of Reason, but reconciled the reason of that period with the imagination of the Romantic period by judging imagination to be a type of “suprareason.”

 Truth in art is accomplished by capturing the essence of the scene, whereas imitation merely captures the physical nature of the scene.  Ruskin believes imagination to consist of all our random memories of what we have seen and experienced, combined in ways to create "good drawings or great thoughts."  The first end of art is the representation of facts; the second is the representation of thoughts; the second is more important, but cannot be reached without achieving the first.

 Romanticism was characterized by an acceptance of more than just the Classical and Renaissance artists; Romantics also took into account the art of other regions and time periods, like the Middle Ages and northern Europe.  Romanticism was compliant with women's thoughts as it focused on feeling, emotion, and intuition—qualities associated with women. 

 Charlotte's artistic views in literature were Romantic in that they were based on the idea that art should evoke the soul and that art was inspired in the artist by something divine.  Imagination and creativity, according to Charlotte, were not always within the artist's control.  Because imagination was not controllable, truths dictated by imagination could not be altered, even if those truths were painful.