Art is a central subject of The Newcomes, no doubt calling upon Thackeray’s own experience and training as an artist and art reviewer. The Newcomes follows the career of a young man from a commercial family who decides to become an artist, and through his reflections we encounter art schools, museums, studios, and many works and artists. Perhaps more important still, the novel dwells constantly on the artistic impulse, not only in artists but in everyone; that is, its central activity, observed in all the major characters, is the fashioning of imaginative constructs that make life harmonious, unified, patterned, and that frequently adopt conventional motifs in doing so. Reality and romantic artifice are constantly played off against, and fused with, each other. Ethel at one moment affects the style of worldly cynicism — ‘I belong to the world like all the rest of my family’ (p. 425) — and enrages Lady Kew, her mentor in worldliness, by flourishing a ‘Sold’ sign on her dress. At another she affects the pastoral shepherdess: ‘you would have fancied her an artless young country lass, only longing to trip back to her village, milk her cows at sunrise, and sit spinning of winter evenings by the fire’ (p. 690).
KeywordsEurope Smoke Hunt Gout Doyle
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- 4.Robert Colby, Thackeray’s Canvass of Humanity: An Author and his Public (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1979) Part One, Section 2, ‘Literyture and the Fine Harts’, pp. 57–86 and 374–7. See also Helene E. Roberts’s, “‘The Sentiment of Reality”: Thackeray’s Art Criticism’, Studies in the Novel, 13 (1978) pp. 21–39.Google Scholar
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