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The Epochs Of Painting. A Biographical and Critical Essay On Painting And Painters Of All Times And Many Places. By Ralph Nicholson Wornum, Keeper And Secretary, National Gallery.

Ralph Nicholson Wornum

RA Collection: Book

Record number




London:: Chapman And Hall, 193, Piccadilly., MDCCCLXIV. [The Author reserves the right of Translation.]

Physical Description

xv, [i], 583, [1] p., frontis., [31] pl.: [9] illus.; 222 mm. (Octavo.)


[Half-t., frontis., t.p., dedic.] - Prologue - Contents - Illustrations [listing plates and in-text illus.] - [Text, with pl.] - Index Of Names Of Artists ... And Of Some Few Other Matters; [colophon].

Responsibility Note

Most plates are unsigned; four appear to be signed by 'H.L. Clarke'; one, as by Daubigny.

The printers' name is given on the verso of the half-title and in the colophon: 'London: Printed By William Clowes And Sons, Stamford Street And Charing Cross.'

The work is dedicated to the memory of Robert Wornum (1780-1852).

The bac pastedown carries the binder's ticket, reading, 'Bound By Bone & Son, 76, Fleet Street, London.'


E. Fernie, Art history and its methods: a critical anthology (1995); V.H. Minor, Art history's history (1994).

Summary Note

Wornum's title is misleading, as the work is almost entirely devoted to western European painting since the thirteenth century. Wornum's perspective is indicated by the titles of the eight books into which he divides his text: 1. Ancient painting: its birth, growth and decline; 2. The Dark Ages - superstition - Byzantine art; 3. The Renaissance - devotional art - ascendancy of sentiment - new technics; 4. The re-establishment of painting; the cinquecento schools: co-ordinate development of the sensuous and the sentimental: maturity and mastery a second time; 5. Transalpine art. Deterioration of painting in Italy, through the ascendancy of the sensuous element of art. Materialism and eclecticism; 6. Progressive decline; the academicians and their contemporaries: uniformity in the place of individuality, for nature an artificial mechanism; 7. Revival of painting - expediency and common sense. These are followed by an Epilogue and a Table of Contributions to the Royal Academy Exhibitions.

The plates and illustrations show Egyptian paintings (two plates), Pompeian paintings (three plates), and post-Renaissance western European paintings (all other plates, and frontispiece).

The work became widely used as a textbook in art schools.


4 July 1864: 'The President laid on the table a work entitled "The Epochs of Painting" by R. N. Wornum, presented by the Author to the Library of the Academy. The Secretary was instructed to acknowledge the same with thanks.' (RA Council Minutes, XII, 191).

Binding Note

19th-century green cloth; spine lettered 'The Epochs Of Painting - Wornum.' and 'MDCCCLXIV. London. Chapman & Hall'.


Painting - Painters - Europe - History
Art history - Great Britain - 19th century
Pictorial works - Great Britain - 19th century