The “Language of Painting”: Aesthetic Appreciation in Edwardian Art Criticism

Sophie Hatchwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In 1908 the artist-critic Walter Sickert (1860–1942) and the dealer-critic Robert Ross (1869–1918) engaged in a debate in the London art press and in their own private correspondence in which they discussed the idea of a “language of painting.” Using their debate as a case study, this article investigates how these writers posited different approaches to the practice of viewing art. I show how they used the notion of a “language of painting” as a basis for discussing critical authority, the nature of art appreciation, the role of beauty and pleasure, and the value of form and technique. In doing so, I reveal how they both adapted and departed from the ideas and rhetorical practices of nineteenth-century art writing, in order to consolidate their own critical authority and to present diversified ways of speaking about art attuned to new developments in the art world. In a wider sense, this article contributes to ongoing scholarly revaluation of the Edwardian period, which aims to recover a sense of the era’s innovation and heterogeneity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-251
Number of pages8
JournalVisual Resources
Issue number3-4
Early online date26 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • Walter Sickert
  • Robert Baldwin Ross
  • art criticism
  • aesthetics


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