|Thomas Hardy (1893) William Strang|
|The Hireling Shepherd (1851) William Holman Hunt|
Saucy wench? Present. Led astray Shepherd? Good-o. Exploding sheep? Kaboom. There is something about the super-realism of the colour, especially in Holman Hunt's work, that lends itself to the drama and landscape of Hardy's Wessex. Although this isn't a picture of Far from the Madding Crowd (not least because predates the novel) the sentiment, to my mind, is the same. In both cases, we have the beauty of nature and the wickedness and general fallibility of humans within it.
Now, last time I mentioned Milkmaids I got some very revealing emails from certain readers, but can I just reiterate that no, I do not have a three legged stool, and even though I can milk a cow, I don't own a peasant blouse and really, somethings you shouldn't really ask a stranger. Just behave yourselves.
Tess is a Pre-Raphaelite heroine born too late (aren't we all?) and I can really see how she would have been taken to heart by our Pre-Raph artists. She has tragedy and spirit, she is wronged but she gets revenge, she is taken advantage of, is a fallen woman but rises like a sword-wielding angel. She is Hunt's The Awakening Conscience, especially in the final scenes when she finally realises her situation in her guilded cage with Alec.
Hardy's work speaks so strongly of the concerns of the Victorians, the rural turmoil and deep personal tragedies that it seems strange that very little of his work gave life to paintings. I could only find the following but would be interested to hear of any others...
|Tess of the D'Urberville William Hatherell|
|Illustration from Tess by Hubert von Herkomer|
|Florence Turner, star of 1915 adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd|
|Blanche Sweet, star of MGM's Tess of the D'urberville|
Despite the mascara and bouffant hair (and that's only Terence Stamp), I love the 1967 adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd as it represents the turning tide in opinion, back to the Victorians. Before the mid-Sixties, Victorians and the products of their era were not seemingly held in high regard. I have friends of a certain age who despise Hardy (morbid and dull, apparently) and Pre-Raphaelite art (morbid and funny looking, apparently) because that's what they were taught at school and university. With the explosion of the epic Far from the Madding Crowd onto 1960s cinema, it seems the Victorians began to be fashionable again, and it became alright to admit liking them, bringing on a subsequent decade that embraced Nineteenth century visual and literary culture in all its different forms, from Laura Ashley dresses to the beloved Ruralists. We haven't stopped loving them since, and their weirdness and the surprise of some of their more shocking excesses calls to us ever more strongly. While Dickens has become cosy tea-time-telly fare (rightly or wrongly), Hardy has never lost his awkward edge of dark humour and even darker tragedy. Can you imagine sitting down with the kiddiwinks to watch a jolly musical version of Jude the Obscure? Yet Oliver Twist, including the clubbing of Nancy, can be sung along to with gay abandon by your Nan without anyone dropping their afternoon tea. Well, that was my experience.
Anyway, happy death day Hardy. To commemorate I shall settle down to watch one of my favourite Hardy inspired films Tamara Drewe. Sorry, but there isn't any snow to die in, so it'll have to do.