Katie Faulkner, Courtauld Institute of ArtRuskin set up in his botanical writings against Darwin and his popularizers. I will exploreRuskin’s anxieties with Darwin’s botany in relation to Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s painting
, of 1864-8. Rossetti’s art is often characterised as representing desire,but
can particularly be seen as a nexus of Darwinian versus Ruskinianideals of aesthetics and desire.
Plants were the main focus of Darwin’s experiments at Down House between1862 and 1880. Darwin published six major botanical works, which were widelyreviewed and commented on.
Darwin’s botanical studies were significant forevolutionary theory in several ways. Firstly, and on a general level, Darwin’s botanybroke down the rigid boundaries between animal and plant life. For example, in his work on plant movement, Darwin equated the responses of plants to stimuli such as light, heator irritants to the very basic reflex actions of animals. Secondly, as I will explain,Darwin’s botanical studies further built the case for natural selection.
Darwin’s observational experiments into the cross and self-fertilisation of plantsformed a central strand of his theory of natural selection. His theories about plantfertilisation date back to Darwin’s first botanical book the
Fertilisation of Orchids
(1862), but he gave the topic a full and detailed explanation in
Cross and Self-Fertilisation of Plants
, published in 1876. This book presented the results of Darwin’s
was commissioned by J. Mitchell of Bradford in 1863 or 1864. It was never exhibitedin Rossetti’s lifetime although accounts of the painting were published in the
, 21 October, 1865,456, and in Algernon Swinburne’s
Notes from the Royal Academy of 1868 (pages!)
. It was first exhibited inBirmingham in 1891 and has been exhibited several times since, most recently in
Exposed: The Victorian Nude
, 2001 Tate Britain. It is now part of the permanent collection of the Russell Coates Museum inBournemouth.
Charles Darwin and Victorian Visual Culture,
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,2006), 137.
Smith, 2006, 140-2.