The Victorians
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The Victorians

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  91 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Published to coincide with the BBC series presented by Jeremy Paxman himself, this is a unique exploration of Victorian society through the paintings of the era.

Jeremy Paxman offers his unique take on the most important and influential period of Britain’s past. Using the paintings of the era as his starting point, Paxman explores themes of family, urban life, industry, emp...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 31st 2009 by BBC Books (first published February 12th 2009)
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Apr 09, 2012 Anna rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: nf
I loved this: A history book with pictures or an art book with history. Either way it worked perfectly. It made me look again at a few paintings I already knew, introduced me to lots of others I hadn't seen, made me think about the impact of the art as a mass media form and consider more carefully how it reflects/depicts/constructs our view of culture and society. Great to see the John Martin exhibition at the Tate in Dec 2011 having read the book. (ie Art as a public spectacle). The one think I...more
I wonder how many other passages in the book are plagiarized. Here is the one I found:

Paxman, The Victorians, p. 215:

"Victoria died at Osborne on 22 January 1901 and, when the immediate shock had passed (after all, practically no one, except the very old, could recall what life was like without her), there came amid all other feelings a sense of relief, the prospect of a new sovereign and of a new century. As Virginia Woolf, emancipated from the Stephen family when she moved to Bloomsbury in 19...more
Vanessa Wester
I was lucky enough to be able to go to London, whilst in the middle of reading this, and see some of the art work featured in this book.

I really enjoyed the descriptions and I found the explanations helped Victorian Britain come to life in a way I had not considered.

A great, insightful read.
"Victorians" by Jeremy Paxman is interesting look at certain era when paintings were reflecting & shaping public opinions. In the days before TV, paintings were re-printed and sold by thousands, some gaining such notoriety, fame and success that people lined in front of museums and galleries to see them. It is very interesting book, discussing how public taste slowly changed and whatever effect Charles Dickens had achieved with his books, some painters helped with their art, pointing at less...more
I love reading about art and history, especially when the two are combined, but I have two main criticisms with this book. Because the images of the paintings are lumped together into two sections, there is a lot of flipping back and forth while reading, which really disrupts the flow. Second, there are a substantial number of paintings that are discussed but not pictured, which I found incredibly frustrating.

A more even spacing of the images, and the inclusion of images of ALL the paintings cov...more
This was quite fun to read. Looking at the social history of Victorian England as it is represented in paintings takes the generally manifest dryness out of reading history. I not only loved looking at the paintings and tried to see how a culture is presented, but also found it highly accessible as a piece of popular history. Mind you, this is probably not for either the expert historian or the expert art-historian. It's more for dilettantes like myself.
Daniel Kukwa
Disappointing. Not necessarily in the text, but the use of art to showcase the Victorian world isn't as exciting...or it looked on the shelf of the local bookstore. Flashes of interest, but in the end, I found it surprisingly dull and listless. I'm still looking for a definitive condensed Victorian overview. "The Victorians" ISN'T it.
Gemma Correll
This book needs to be read sitting next to a computer, so that you can google each painting as it is mentioned. (Maybe the hardback version is better, but the images in the paperback are frustratingly sparse and also quite tiny.) A good read though, if you're into the Victorians... those crazy bastards.
Meredith Stranges
Really awesome, completely engrossing. I love the Victorians and portraiture, so this was an excellent combination for me. I also had the great fortune to see Paxman give a talk on the subject at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival, which made the book (which he signed for me) even more enjoyable.
Andy Emery
An interesting view of the Victorian scene through the medium of paintings. Very illuminating for me, and has encouraged me to read more, and developed an interest in the painters of the time. Pity about the small size of the painting illustrations in the paperback copy I read.
A good introduction to the personality of the age, told largely through the art of the age, art which has been traditionally a bit unfairly underrated. It is a brief, well written book, a good overview of Victorian art and psyche.
Samuel Jewell
The Victorians will give anyone new to art a wonderful understanding of how it may be be used as a historical source, whilst also providing a light dusting of dry whit to what is an already well trodden subject matter.
A broad overview of Victorian culture via its paintings - could be an excellent introduction to the period. As with "Empire," his style is anecdotal, which makes for great travel or before-bed reading.
An excellent and (naturally given the subject) lavishly illustrated companion to the television series. So what if Paxman didn't write it all himself - at least he admits it!

Highly recommended.
Stuart Jennings
An absorbing mix of social and art history written in flowing and engaging prose. Illustrated well throughout, though sometimes larger illustrations would have served the text better
Cassandra Kay Silva
This could have been good, if he had turned it more into a story of the times instead of a compilation of the times. Does that make sense? The artwork was of course lovely.
Great introduction into Victorian society. Not knowing a lot about paintings or painting, this book is a great way of appreciating art in a new way. I'd recommend it.
Stephanie Matthews
I have read this book before, and watched the TV series. It's both educational and entertaining but you do need to like the subject before you pick it up.
Sarah Albany
A lovely sweep across lots of different works. I wouldn't normally prefer the TV series to the book, but I think it worked better.
I like Jeremy Paxman, and I've enjoyed my trips to art galleries (especially Leeds City) even more since reading this.
Good. I like Art history and this was quite good as a popular go at it.
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Jeremy Dickson Paxman is a British journalist, author and television presenter. He has worked for the BBC since 1977. He is noted for a forthright and abrasive interviewing style, particularly when interrogating politicians. His regular appearances on the BBC2's Newsnight programme have been criticised as aggressive, intimidating, condescending and irreverent, and applauded as tough and incisive.
More about Jeremy Paxman...
The English: A Portrait of a People On Royalty: A Very Polite Inquiry into Some Strangely Related Families Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British The Political Animal: An Anatomy Great Britain's Great War

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