Apparently not, though. I went up that Sunday to see the paintings and, well, I'm always aware that I stand out a little. I don't mind that. I actually rather like it. But I felt as if I were visiting from another planet. Everyone was very posh and very old, except, that is, for the middle-class mummies and daddies dragging their bored teenagers around. All these elderly ladies in pearls, peering at a great, magnificent depiction of a Babylonian wife market, and saying, "Oh, yes, very nice." All very sedate. And there's me, in my full-length paisley coat and trailing purple scarf, feverishly scribbling notes, vaguely aware that I was muttering to myself as I did so, and trying not to gasp audibly when I saw something new. I was half in raptures, but half of me felt a bit... bizarre.
Anyway, that's neither here nor there, really. I looked the paintings up on Google Images for you, but the results were rather disappointing. I have got a few, though:
Briton Riviere - Sympathy, 1877
This is the College's "trademark" painting. It must be quite famous. We have postcards and posters and all sorts for sale. In fact, I've had a poster of it in my room all year. I don't think it's going up in the new house, though. I've kind of gone off it. I mean, yeah, it's very nice. It's cute. She's endearing, and it's interesting to wonder what she's thinking, as I always do with people in paintings. It's the dog that ruins it, I think. I mean, sympathetic, loyal little dog. It's so twee, such a cliche. Maybe it hadn't been done to death in those days.
J. Pettie - A State Secret, 1874
What a fantastic idea for a painting. This has really grown on me, especially since reading Ann Radcliffe's The Italian. There's something truly fascinating about ruthless, cruel Catholic clergy. They make the perfect villains. Perhaps because clergy are supposed to be the opposite, so our expectations and the social order are overturned. And you've got the added mystery that goes with Catholicism, the atmosphere created by the great buildings and the ceremony. The Inquisition, as well, is so scary. The idea of physical torture, dark, dank cells and corridors like the deepest, most primeval parts of the human mind, sadism, something inhuman about the inability or refusal to feel pity, wickedness disguised as righteousness, and the self-deceit that goes with that. I wish this image were close enough for me to see the clergyman's face. It's brilliantly done, the human forms and flames in the background, distant and indistinct enough to be nothing but a mural, flames which link so directly to the burning of the paper. Amazing.
What I like about this one is that you can almost see into her mind. The discarded books and papers are evidence that she tries to employ herself, to make the time go faster, but she cannot concentrate. She is just a little too pale, having a naturally fair complexion. She is healthy enough, but you can deduce if you look carefully that she's had no sunshine or fresh air in too long, and not enough sleep. There's a dread in her face. This painting is twinned with one of the two princes in the Tower, which you can see here.
Gosh, I wish I could do the Ritual and Society in C19th Fiction and Painting module next year. Unfortunately, because of the way the system works, choosing that option would have left me doing stuff I didn't particularly want to do for the rest of the English Literature half of this year's work. It wasn't quite worth it, to miss out on all the other stuff I want to do.