Victorian Sentimental Prints, Drawings and Watercolours – Study from the V&A London 

According to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, sentimental prints drawings and watercolours were a focus of the Victorian Era. This collection of art would be ideal for display in the family home and in particular spaces that were considered for the female, for example the parlour. With the advancing of technology, printing became easier and easier and production was quick and cheap. This meant that the market for these kinds of image was widely expanding. A lot of the images were used in advertising and periodicals. It is clear to see that the Industrial Revolution, also revolutionised the art world.

Art was split into several recurring themes : love, nature, the seasons and the passing of time, childhood, death and urban tragedy.


Love was the obvious sentimental choice, a lot of female artists focussed on the idea of rejection and disappointment, Valentines day cards were also extremely popular and widely used to take profits and so were music sheet covers. The semiotics of love were highlighted again and again and the downcast eye and the language of flowers showed the viewer a side of mystery.


Charles West Cope (1811-1890)
‘Hope Deferred’
Etching with pencil


Emily Farmer (1826-1905)
‘In Doubt’

Nature, the seasons and the passing of time 

With the sudden birth of the Industrial Revolution, another use of art was to distract from the reality of the urbanisation that was going on around them. Sentimental interpretations of the past were extemely common and brought out an emotional nostalgia to the time gone before. The works also looked at life events such as birth, death and marriage.


The Months of the Year – January
About 1870
Wood engraving


Frederick Walker (1840-1875)
Illustration to ‘Spring Days’ by Dora Greenwell
Wood engraving


Images of Childhood were always though as by critics and “intellectuality undemanding”. However this did not stop a lot of acclaimed artists from focusing on this subject that soon became a common occurrence in illustration and commercial graphics. Soon artists found out that the concept of childhood portrayed a strong sense of innocence and childhood needed to be prolonged and kept safe for as long as possible. The theme of childhood provokes a strong sense of nostalgia.


John Massey Wright (1777-1866)
‘The Return of Olivia, from The Vicar of Wakefield’
About 1840-1850


Death was a highly discussed theme in Victorian times.

A mourning dress was common and public expressions of grief were encouraged. Deathbed scenes symbolised “ideal deaths of saintly characters who were too good for this world”. For artists, it game them the opportunity to explore Pathos.

Urban Tragedy 

With the Victorian urban scene being poverty stricken and showing high equality toward women who were commonly liable to kill themselves due to their exploitation. The evils that encompassed the ideas of urbanisation were hidden by artists through pieces designed to arouse pathos and the idea of emotion and sympathy. However a lot of artists work did not show social reality. The women who are in this position are beautiful and young but suffering without protection from their homes and often depicted as heroines. These women are shown as having fallen on hard times. This idea enhanced the emotion and sentimentality for the viewer who was usually middle class.


Sir John Everett Millais,

‘The Bridge of Sighs’,



After exploring this study I feel that Morris did have a lot to do even with disciplines not his own. He seems to fall a lot into the categories of Nature






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