CHECK TROUSERS AND TOP HATS

The Health of the Bride 1889 by Stanhope Alexander Forbes 1857-1947

I have been reading Christopher Wood’s Victorian Panorama, a definitive survey of modern-life painting in 19th century Britain, some of which was moralising (like Holman Hunt’s The Awakening Conscience) but much of which was coolly observational (such as Stanford Forbes’ The Health of the Bride, my particular favourite, above).

Wood says that, although many of these paintings were popular with the public, and some sold for good prices, many met with critical disapproval because there was a notion that modern life was too ugly to be a proper subject for art, and – surprising to us – modern clothes were too undignified, especially trousers and top hats. Millais said he could not imagine Van Dyck’s Charles I in a pair of check trousers.

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