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The Pre-Raphaelite Society


an exact rendering; rather they can be paraphrased or intensified in order to communicate an idea. That idea is essentially the relationship of Man and Nature, with Nature standing in for God. The validity of a work is invested in how well it communicates its subject to the viewer; we are required to look below the surface of the paint to comprehend the deeper meaning, Wordsworth's 'something far more deeply interfused'.

The Ruralists could be seen as vanguards of the Green Movement, going in search of the 'Good Life', a 'conservative' reaction to the despoliation of the natural world but they were not political or social activists. The Ruralists depict the British countryside as a place of pastoral enchantment, while it is being torn apart by modern pressures, from intensive farming to encroaching suburbia. Their escape from the realities of their own time, materialism, commercialisation and celebrity culture, is seen as 'opting out' rather than engaging with the problems. Rather both the Ancients and Ruralists sought to establish 'the alternative lifestyle of the creative individual'. That in itself can be seen as a form of protest but they have also marginalized themselves, being literally and metaphorically on the periphery. Martin sees their art as 'blooms that are too delicate and private'.23 But Ruralism created a way of life, as well as a platform for their art. Even after the fragmentation of the Ruralists, Graham and Annie Ovenden cultivated the communal spirit at Barley Splatt, itself a testimony to Arts and Crafts ethics and endeavour (much of this Gothic fantasy was built with Graham's own hands). Neither Ancients nor Ruralists have spearheaded a new direction in the art of their times; conversely they can be lauded for 'going their own way'or 'doing their own thing': 'The work of Graham Ovenden provides a significant instance of an artist, who despite the fashions of recent years, has assiduously pursued his own aesthetic concerns, resulting in a body of landscape work that is not only a vital addition to the landscape tradition but a wholly original synthesis of his own imaginative vision and aesthetic values.'24 In so doing they have contributed to a continuum in English art- the Romantic thread that can be traced through the Ancients, the Pre-Raphaelites, the Neo-Romantics to the Ruralists and even beyond; 'the romantic vision, the relation of the natural to the mystical or aesthetic vision, which was celebrated by artists

23 Martin, 'In the Secret Garden; Autumn with the Ruralists', p.41.
24 Cumming, 'Post-Modern Landscape: The Art of Graham Ovenden', p.78.
25 Cumming, 'Post-Modern Landscape: The Art of Graham Ovenden', p.78.

from Blake up until the Neo-Romantic revival in the 1940s, is reflected in Ovenden's own landscape vision'.25 Current environmental concerns are highlighting the necessity of re-establishing some sense of harmony between Man and Nature; in the 21" century the Ruralist mission no longer looks outmoded