|DeLaura, David J. “The Context of Browning’s
Painter Poems: Aesthetics, Polemics, Historics,” PMLA Vol. 95, No.
3 (May 1980): 367-388.
DeLaura contends that the neo-Catholic art thesis of Alexis François Rio as set forth in his 1836 De la poésie chrétienne is essential for an adequate interpretation of Robert Browning’s painter poems of the 1840s and 1850s. He also discusses how Kingsley was earlier influenced by Rio’s work and argues that Kingsley’s artistic views and his rejection of the Rio thesis constituted an important source for Browning’s artistic ideas. He examines the passage in Yeast where Kingsley has Barnakill present a Protestant view of art and a repudiation of the Roman Catholic approach to art. He also discusses Kingsley’s treatment in Alton Locke where he “uses the context of painting to develop the more positive aspect of the new Protestant aesthetic of realism” (377). Moreover, DeLaura, in his examination of Kingley’s review of Jameson’s 1849 Sacred and Legendary Art, sees his antipathy to Rio’s Catholic view of art to have a strong sexual basis. In this work his “tone of intense leering and almost scurrilous derision . . . is a measure of how deeply disturbing and threatening Kingsley found the new ‘ascetic’ rewriting of art history” (377).