John William Waterhouse, like many of his peers, took inspiration from literary sources. His painting The Lady of Shallot was based upon the poem of the same name by Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson. Though not literally an illustration, Waterhouse's is still a visual representation of an author's words.
When writing the previous article, Rockwell Draws a Crowd, in the back of my mind, I had the theory of art evolution as proposed by Dennis Nolan, an associate professor of art at the University of Hartford. Nolan's opinion, which I first learned about through James Gurney, is unlike that traditionally offered in today's art schools. A talented illustrator in his own right, Nolan likely felt disenfranchised by the Art establishment's portrayal of the art timeline- where was illustration's place in art history? And for that matter, where was animation? Comics? The proposal Nolan has put forth is that the progression of art from Impressionism to Modern Art was not the sole branch on the family tree which descended from Academic Art. In Nolan's view, illustration, animation, and comics are each additional branches of art which carried on the tradition of realist art.
Nolan's illustrated view of art history from the Gurney Journey blog.
For me, having a background in illustration, Nolan's theory has much appeal. A large motivating factor for me studying illustration in college was my love of representational art; illustration at the time seemed like the only outlet for realist artists seeking an income, so it was the area to which I gravitated. Not surprisingly, now that representational art is re-gaining popularity, many of the field's most successful artists have had extensive backgrounds in illustration. The transition from Academic Art to illustration, and now back to representational gallery work seems like a natural progression.
Art by Dennis Nolan
While writing the Rockwell article, I was also reminded of a comment made by one of my professors in college. I was in an art history lecture where the teacher, who was also the head of the painting department, encountered a palpable resentment for illustration from the painting students in the class. Though he did not propose to us a theory like Nolan's, which would have included both disciplines in the lecture hall, he did still calm the crowd and bring to the fine art students a kinder view of the few commercial artists present. "You painting students act like the illustration students are prostituting themselves when they sell their art," he began. "Let's face it- we all want to sell our art, even if it is just to buy more paint. We all paint to sell."
To read more about Dennis Nolan's theory of the art timeline, visit James Gurney's post, Art History: A Fresh View, on the Gurney Journey blog.