British art and artists 1840-1960: exploring identities, practices and contexts

Submitting Institution

Aberystwyth University

Unit of Assessment

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
History and Archaeology: Curatorial and Related Studies, Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

The impact of Cruise's work has been to extend and enrich the understanding, appreciation and value of aspects of British art from a university art historical research environment to Fine Art auctioneering houses, picture dealers, museum curators, and the general public. His greatest impact has been on cultural life and on museum and gallery culture. Cruise has investigated the art of the Victorian period and re-evaluated it through widely disseminated outputs, reviving interest in the life and work of Simeon Solomon and in drawing as a practice. Addressing issues of sexuality, religion, race, and patronage he has re-enhanced the relevance of Victorian works of art for various constituencies. In his Pre-Raphaelite drawing project [3.12, 3.13] he drew attention to a significant but largely overlooked feature; as a reviewer observed: "How could the role that drawing played for the Pre-Raphaelites have been [hitherto] so overlooked?" (Country Life, 16th March 2011).

Underpinning research

Cruise's research on British art and artists offers new interpretations of well-known works by well-established artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) and Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898), as well as lost or forgotten works by relatively unfamiliar artists such as Simeon Solomon (1840-1905). In the case of Solomon, Cruise's research has revived a reputation and created an international interest in this marginalised figure whose significance had been overlooked. Although overlapping in its concerns, Cruise's research can be grouped together under three headings: Simeon Solomon: life and work [3.1-3.5], Victorian art culture [3.6-3.11], and Drawing: history and practice [3.12-3.16].

Much of Cruise's research has been on Victorian art culture [3.6- 3.11]; it has come out of his involvement with primary source investigation — identifying precise timelines, exhibition practices, correct titles, descriptions of works; for example: his essay on Rossetti's first exhibitions in The Burlington Magazine (2004) [3.7] is evidence of this use of sources, as is the catalogue section of Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites (2005) [3.3]. A key element has been research in family records held by descendants of the PRB — the Rossetti, Millais, Burne-Jones, Brett and Solomon families [3.3, 3.12, 3.13]. The result has been the rediscovery of several significant works. His scrupulous reading of Victorian periodicals for particular uses of critical language, for correcting records of titles of works and augmenting exhibiting histories has been of use both for his own curatorial activities and for auction houses such as Christie's. [5.1, 5.5]

A good example of Cruise's research and dissemination strategies can be seen in his several outputs on Simeon Solomon. Following a paper on Solomon social class and gender at the AAH annual conference in 1994, he published a seminal essay re-positioning Solomon within Pre-Raphaelitism (Scolar, 1996) [3.1], and an overview of Solomon's life and work for The Jewish Quarterly (1998). Cruise then gave the first talk to be delivered on Simeon Solomon at a major public event at the Tate in 1999. Subsequently he advised on an exhibition of Solomon's works (From Prodigy to Outcast) at the London Jewish Museum (2001) and contributed to the catalogue. He wrote the ODNB entry on the artist in 2004 [3.2] while curating a major touring exhibition of the artist's work at BMAG, Munich and the Ben-Uri, London (2005-6) [3.3]. The reviewer for Apollo described the exhibition as "very exciting", explaining further: "Exciting, first, in the obvious sense that a really comprehensive selection of the work of a remarkable artist is presented to us here for the first time since his death in obscurity a century ago. This is an event which the cognoscenti have awaited with gleeful anticipation and which will be a revelation to many less well acquainted with Solomon's work." (2006). A public symposium at the British Art Center, Yale, in 2006, at which Cruise was keynote speaker, engaged further with the subject.

Subsequent research has augmented the knowledge set out in these outputs, placing Solomon in a wider context of Victorian art and with other contemporary figures, such as Swinburne, Pater and Burne-Jones, and using periodical criticism, poetry, and medical discourses on eccentricity and madness to `place' him [3.4]. This continuing research has expanded upon Solomon's critical reception, his working techniques and his iconography; it has been published in chapters in books published by Ashgate (2009) [3.4] and Palgrave (2010) [3.5]. Earlier stages of his Pre-Raphaelite research were supported by two scholarships to the British Art Center, Yale (2004, 2009), and a period at the Bancroft Collection at Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, where Cruise was the first holder of the Pre-Raphaelite Scholarship (2009).

The underpinning research for Cruise's work is interdisciplinary in nature and has required his gaining a broad knowledge of several social, cultural and intellectual currents in European cultural life. Thus, his work on drawing and painting draws on research in European literature, religious thought, studies in gender and sexuality, British cultural institutions, such as the RA and the growth of commercial galleries, among other issues. A good example of this kind of approach can be found in an essay on Oscar Wilde, `Versions of the Annunciation: Oscar Wilde and the message of beauty' in After the Pre-Raphaelites: Art and Aestheticism in Victorian England (ed. Elizabeth Prettejohn) (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999) [3.6] which draws upon Biblical, religious and denominational studies, gender studies, art, design, and literary histories, Paterian criticism, and the history of dress.

References to the research


3.1 [Book chapter] `Lovely devils: Simeon Solomon and a version of mid-19th century masculinity' in Reframing Pre-Raphaelitism (ed. Ellen Harding) (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1996)

3.2 [Long reference entry]`Simeon Solomon', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2004)

3.3 [Exhibition / catalogue] Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites (Birmingham, Munich, London, 2005/ London: Merrell, 2005)

3.4 [Book chapter] `Poetic, eccentric, Pre-Raphaelite: the critical reception of Simeon Solomon's work at the Dudley Gallery' in Writing the Pre-Raphaelites (eds. Tim Barringer and Michaela Geibelhausen) (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009) [REF 2 submitted]

3.5 [Book chapter] `Critical connections and quotational strategies: Allegory and aestheticism in Pater and Solomon' in Victorian Aesthetic Conditions: Pater across the arts (eds. Elicia Clements and Lesley Higgins) (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) [REF 2 submitted]


3.6 [Book chapter] `Versions of the Annunciation: Oscar Wilde and the message of beauty' in After the Pre-Raphaelites: Art and Aestheticism in Victorian England (ed. Elizabeth Prettejohn) (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999)

3.7 [Journal article] `"Sincerity & earnestness": Rossetti's first exhibitions' in Burlington Magazine (January 2004)

3.8 [Book chapter] `Among the Ruins: Burne-Jones, Browning and Time' in Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte (Graz: University of Graz, 2005)

3.9 `[Scholarly essay] `Sick-sad dreams: Burne-Jones and Pre-Raphaelite Medievalism' in Yearbook of English Studies (40:1/40:2) (London: Maney/MHRA, Summer 2010) [REF 2 submitted]

3.10 [Reference entries] i) `W.F. Yeames' ii) `The St Johns' Wood Clique' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography iii) `John Melhuish Strudwick' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004, 2007, 2011)

3.11 [Two catalogue section introductions] `Walter Pater' and `Aestheticism and Religion': in The Cult of Beauty (London: V&A Publications, 2011)


3.12 (Single authored book) Pre-Raphaelite Drawing (London: Thames and Hudson, 2011) [REF 2 submitted]

3.13 [Exhibition] The Poetry of Drawing: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery/NGNSW Sydney (2011) [REF 2 submitted]

3.14 (Journal article) `Drawing and Vision' Apollo (March 2011), pp122-27

3.15 (Chapter in scholarly book) `Pre-Raphaelite Drawings' chapter in Elizabeth Prettejohn (ed.)
The Cambridge Companion to the Pre-Raphaelites (Cambridge University Press, 2012)


3.16 (Exhibition/catalogue introduction & chapter) Figure and Ground: Keith Vaughan: Drawings, Prints and Photographs (Sansom; Bristol, 2013)

Details of the impact

Cruise's work has had three broad areas of impact: a) public cultural life, b) commerce and the art market, and c) pedagogy and public education and understanding.

a) Impact is evident in the reception and wide use made of Cruise's research outputs. The range of periodicals reviewing the Pre-Raphaelite Drawing project was strikingly wide: from Grazia to The Burlington Magazine, from World of Interiors to The Financial Times. On his activities as a curator, a letter from the Fine Art Curator at BMAG makes the general impact clear: "Both of Cruise's exhibitions ... had a demonstrable and substantial impact on the public awareness of BMAG's outstanding collections of works by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, their associates and followers." She continues that The Poetry of Drawing "made new and illuminating connections both between the works themselves and between our collections and objects on loan from elsewhere..." [5.2]

The final visitor numbers for The Poetry of Drawing were in excess of 18,000 in Birmingham and almost 25,000 in Sydney — both of which exceeded the institutional expectations for paying exhibitions especially of works on paper. [5.2, 5.3] In Sydney the exhibition "had a positive influence on our institution by drawing attention to the British Victorian collections", according to the Curator of European Prints, Drawings and Watercolours, who saw the exhibition as illuminating their permanent collection. [5.3] The healthy worldwide sales figures for the book Pre-Raphaelite Drawing were well above normal sales of art books — around 5,700 copies in the USA and 4,500 copies in the rest of the world have been sold by the publisher, figures that do not include sales at the exhibition venues — reveals the popular and commercial success of the project [5.4]

In designing exhibitions Cruise has presented an individual curatorial vision that has been noted in reviews both in the press and in visitors' blogs; for example: "The most wonderful thing about this exhibition, was ... its remarkable curation ... With all the pieces displayed at no higher than eye-level, these choices of display combined to give a completely unprecedented and immersive access to ... cherished works of art." [5.8]. The Spectator reviewer remarked on the "extraordinary array of work", wrote that the exhibition was "a joy to visit" because of the "almost prodigal spaciousness." [5.9] while the Daily Telegraph described it as "magisterial" and the installation as "crisp and clear". [5.10]

b) Cruise's research has had a specific impact on the art market including his documentation and assessment of the works of Simeon Solomon. Cruise has been asked to authenticate or advise on works by Solomon by Christies, the Maas Gallery, Abbott and Holder, and Campbell Wilson, among other auction houses and dealers. The Director of the Maas Gallery observes that Cruise "helped in dating and identifying three Simeon Solomon drawings that belonged to the Forbes sisters, establishing and describing their provenance in a most illuminating way... the drawings were sold to a Birmingham couple that were turned on to Pre-Raphaelite drawings in general and Solomon in particular by the two exhibitions curated by Colin Cruise at Birmingham." [5.5] The Head of Christie's International Department (Prints & Drawings) makes a connection between Cruise's scholarship and the art market: " It has been enormously helpful to obtain [Cruise's] views on attributions and on art historical importance when cataloguing and valuing important works of art. ... Most recently Cruise sent me an enlightening article about Love Among the Ruins, the masterpiece by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones that we sold in July and which realised a new world record both for the artist and any Pre-Raphaelite Work of Art. The Tate now intend an exhibition around Burne-Jones and The Symbolists with this painting as their centre-piece." [5.1]

c) Cruise's research and curatorial practices have had wider and more practical, often pedagogic, impact: his advice and experience has been published by the AAH in Don't Ask for the Mona Lisa (2011), as well as in a presentation at the Barber Institute: `The Crisis in Regional Curatorship', (November 2012) [5.6] and an invitation to co-host (with Prof. Shearer West), a session on the `state of the discipline' at BAVS Glasgow (3/9/2011). He was invited to join the advisory board for the award-winning, JISC-funded digitisation project at BMAG. He was also an advisor to The Cult of Beauty exhibition/catalogue (V&A/San Francisco, 2011-12). His work features in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching programmes, as shown, for example, in bibliographies for the Graduate School, Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Iowa among others [5.7].

Cruise has continued to extend his scholarly research activities through conference organisation, keynote addresses, gallery and other public talks and broadcasting. As a participating expert he has appeared in The Return of the King (BBC Radio 4; first broadcast 14th April 2004), Flowers in Art Series Episode: `Lilies' (BBC4/BBC2; first screening 18th May 2004), and Botticelli Primavera: The Life of a Masterpiece, (BBC2/ Fulmar Productions; first screening 23rd February 2004). Largely as a result of the interdisciplinary nature of his research Cruise has been in demand as a speaker at public events and has frequently been invited to address forums where literary, religious and social historical ideas are debated as well as, and along with, art historical ones. Thus, he delivered the annual McDougall Lecture in the History of Watercolour at the Courtauld Institute , London (December 2012) [5.11] and has spoken at academic and public talks at CRASSH (Cambridge University, 2013), the Courtauld Institute (2013), Rylands Library, Manchester (2013), Oxford University `Bible in Music Art & Literature' seminars (2012), Bristol University (2012), Bournemouth Institute (2011) and frequently at the Tate and the National Gallery of Scotland and other museums, and for the Art Fund and various Adult and Continuing Education organisations (e.g. 2005, 2006, 2012).

Sources to corroborate the impact

5.1) Message from Head of the International Department: Prints & Drawings, Christie's (4/10/13) outlining the impact of Cruise's expertise

5.2) Letter from the Curator of Fine Art, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (27/9/13)

5.3) Letter from the Curator of European Prints, Drawings and Watercolours, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (27/9/13)

5.4) Book sale figures provided by Thames and Hudson, London (to September 2013) ()

5.5) Letter from the Director of the Maas Gallery (25/9/13) recording the value of Cruise's curation of exhibitions and his help in authenticating Simeon Solomon drawings

5.6) Workshop on Regional Curatorship, Barber Institute (28/9/12)

5.7) Bibliographies for The Graduate School, Art Institute of Chicago
( and the University of Iowa (,

5.8) Online blog relating to the curation of The Poetry of Drawing exhibition:

5.9) The Spectator exhibition review (

5.10) Daily Telegraph exhibition review: (

5.11) On-line announcement for the McDougall Lecture in the History of Watercolour