- Publisher: BBC BOOKS
- Format: Hardback | 256 pages
- Dimensions: 198mm x 246mm x 26mm | 1,061g
- Publication date: 31 August 2009
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 1846077435
- ISBN 13: 9781846077432
- Illustrations note: FULL-COLOUR INTEGRATED
- Sales rank: 300,736
In "The Victorians", Jeremy Paxman offers his personal take on the most important and influential period of our national past. Using the paintings of the era as his starting point - in his view, the one mode of Victorian art yet to be rescued from indifference - Paxman explores themes of family, urban life, industry, empire, and imagination to uncover truths (and explode some myths) about Victorian Britain. To Paxman, these paintings were the television of their day, immensely popular visual narratives that attracted crowds by the hundreds of thousands: a single picture show featuring Elizabeth Butler's Balaclava (depicting survivors of the Charge of the Light Brigade) drew 50,000 viewers, some of them openly weeping. The Victorians shows how artists like Butler, William Powell Frith, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Luke Fildes, and Ford Madox Brown were chronicling a world changing before their eyes, and his overview ranges across the whole of Victorian life and culture: from high gothic architecture to the birth of the football league, from the novels of Dickens to the technological marvels of Brunel. Published to coincide with a landmark BBC series, "The Victorians" is an opinionated, informed, surprising, and hugely enthusiastic appraisal of the birth of modern Britain - a glorious reminder of how the Victorians made us who we are today.
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Jeremy Paxman was born in Yorkshire and educated at Cambridge. He is an award-winning journalist and the author of Friends in High Places: Who Runs Britain?, Fish, Fishing and the Meaning of Life, The English, The Political Animal and On Royalty. He is currently presenter of Newsnight and University Challenge.
By Mark Thwaite 04 Mar 2009
The current host of University Challenge shows that he is no undergraduate dimwit with this personal take on a crucial period in our national history.
Paxman is an informed and friendly guide who uses the art of the Victorian era to shed light on what the Victorians thought about themselves and the momentous upheavals they were living through. If we have eyes to see, the art of the age, Paxman believes, is an almost documentary record of a time that need not be lost to us. In such a book, we'd expect to find discussions of the paintings of the pre-Raphaelites or artists such as Ford Madox Brown, Gustave Dore and (in a league of his own) J. M. W. Turner, but it is the strength of this book that Paxman turns his attention to artists that aren't household names (some of whom just aren't very good!) like Frank Holl, Henry Wallis, William MacDuff and Abraham Solomon. Studying these forgotten artists is one of the best ways of seeing how the Victorians saw themselves.
"A wonderful introduction to the sheer vibrancy of the Victorian era... genuinely impressive" -- Dominic Sandbrook The Evening Standard "A real contribution to art history, introducing the reader to a rich mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar... the book certainly taught me things about the Victorians that I either did not know or had not thought about with sufficient imagination" -- A.N. Wilson The Guardian