Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tolstoy and The Pre-Raphaelites

I know I already mentioned this in class but I would like to show a few images of Pre-Raphaelite paintings that especially reminded me of Anna Karenina. The Pre-Raphaelites started in 1848 in England and are mentioned in the novel several times, even scoffed at. The group started with archaic subject matters and then moved on to landscapes and realist images of social happenings. Many of the scenes in Anna Karenina center around unhappy women, tragic love and displays of wealth—all topics that this art movement portrayed in their context of Victorian England. In the 1860s, Daniel Gabriel Rossetti, one of the founding members, focused on Elizabeth Siddall, a model friend, and much of his work focused on women. Much of his work portrays Siddall as a helpless, passive and sad woman and reminds me of Anna's relationship with Vronsky.
The similarities between Pre-Raphaelitism and Tolstoy seemed so related that I searched online and actually found some helpful pages. John Ruskin, an English art critic and painter himself who worked with and influenced the original three member Pre-Raphaelite group, was a figure that influenced Tolstoy as well. The author thought of Ruskin as a hugely significant figure and even followed his work and writings on modern technology and developments—a big theme of the Pre-Raphaelites. So they are connected!


  1. I am really not sure that Anna can be characterized as "helpless, passive and sad." Helpless she may have been by choice, for letting the passion dominate the rationality, but not because her hands had been tied by society. Passive she may not have been at all since she made her choices, even if the social pressure had been enormous. Definition of sad is complex; just because she could not set her expectations at a reasonable level, by recognizing that she cannot have everything in life, can we say that her resulting emotion is sad? Why not delusional? To me sad is when one does not have choice at all, rather than when one has regret(s) after making many emotional and not very thoughtful choices and decisions.

  2. I agree, Anna does not seem passive and helpless however I felt there were sad scenes of her. Much of the imagery of women from this group is of female characters and the tragic and doomed love that paralyzes and saddens them. This theme is what reminds me of Anna, and more specifically of her relationship with Vronsky.