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Arts Essay

Twee, treacly and tearful: Pre-Raphaelites at the Walker Art Gallery reviewed

Were the Victorians really as apathetic and drippy as these paintings suggest?

27 February 2016

9:00 AM

27 February 2016

9:00 AM

Pre-Raphaelites: Beauty and Rebellion

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, until 5 June

Dear, good, kind, sacrificing Little Nell. Here she is kneeling by a wayside pond, bonnet pushed back, shoes and stockings off, while she rests her blistered feet. She scoops a palm of water with cupped hands and tenderly washes those of her grandfather: her feckless, gambling, on-the-lam grandfather. It is an old Oscar Wilde chestnut, but one would have to have a heart of stone to look at William Holman Hunt’s portrait of Charles Dickens’s saintly ‘Little Nell and her Grandfather’ (1845) without laughing.

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