Social Realism, Class Politics, and Pastoral in Later Victorian Art

Exhibition Opening Lecture
January 23, 2019

Alex Potts, Max Loehr Collegiate Professor, University of Michigan, will deliver a lecture exploring the intriguing combination of realism and pastoral in the work of Frederick Walker, and artists associated with him. Their work does not so much evade the social and political realities of their time as engage with these realities in complex, if mainly indirect, ways. The relative absence of modern urban and industrial environments and the focus on rural ones was pervasive in later nineteenth-century art. With a distinctive take on scenes of rural life, the artists represented in the Center’s Victorian Idyll exhibition fashioned a body of work that did at times address serious issues of labor and social class, and as such functioned as a form of social realism—indeed Hubert von Herkomer might well be considered one of the major social realist artists of his time.