Victorian classicism in context : Sir E.J. Poynter (1836-1919) and the classical heritage.
Sir E. J. Poynter (1838-1919) currently occupies an anomalistic position within the history of
art and the classical heritage. His greatly diminished reputation is essentially a product of
posthumous re-evaluation and neglect and bears testimony to the vagaries of art appreciation and
public taste. He remains singularly neglected amongst the triumvirate of artists called the Victorian
'Olympians', despite occupying a uniquely prominent position in the art establishment of his day.
Recent scholarship has tended to regard Poynter's art as simply imitative of that of his contemporaries
Frederic, Lord Leighton and Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema in both style and subject, and thus has
afforded him a diminished position in the history of art and the classical heritage.
This thesis was formulated with the express purpose of reassessing Poynter as an artist and a
theoretician in the contexts of late Victorian/ Edwardian painting. The considerable dearth of recent
literature relating to this artist and the sustained contemporary art historical interest in the Victorian
period were major sources of inspiration to the conception of this project. The composition of this
thesis has been governed by underlying contextual objectives and concentrates on select aspects of
Poynter's work which relate him specifically to Victorian receptions of the ancient world. The central
objective is not to rehabilitate Poynter as a leading Victorian 'Olympian', but to recover the contexts
and rediscover some of the locations in which he worked in order to obtain a cohesive understanding
of his classicism.