NORDSCI Conference proceedings 2021, Book 1

Sociology and Healthcare

VISUALIZATION OF EVERYDAY SOCIAL AND CULTURAL PRACTICES: VICTORIAN PAINTING AS A MIRROR OF THE ENGLISH TEA PARTY TRADITION

Prof. Dr. Irina Rutsinskaya, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Galina Smirnova

ABSTRACT

Throughout the second half of the seventeen and the eighteenth centuries, tea remained an expensive exotic drink for Britain that “preserved” its overseas nature. It was only in the Victorian era (1837-1903) that tea became the English national drink. The process attracts the attention of academics from various humanities. Despite an impressive amount of research in the UK, in Russia for a long time (in the Soviet years) the English tradition of tea drinking was considered a philistine curiosity unworthy of academic analysis. Accordingly, the English tea party in Russia has become a leader in the number of stereotypes. The issue became important for academics only at the turn of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Currently, we can observe significant growth of interest in this area in Russia and an expansion of research into tea drinking with regard to the history of society, philosophy and culture.
Despite this fact, there are still serious lacunas in the research of English tea parties in the Victorian era. One of them is related to the analysis of visualization of this practice in Victorian painting. It is a proven fact that tea parties are one of the most popular topics in English arts of the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. No other art school in the world referred to the topic so frequently: painting formed the visual image of the English tea party, consolidated, propagandized and spread ideas of the national tea tradition. However, this aspect has been reflected neither in British nor Russian studies. Being descriptive and analytical, the present research refers to the principles of historicism, academic reliability and objectivity, helping to determine the principal trends and social and cultural features and models in Britain during the period.
The present research is based on the analysis of more than one hundred genre paintings by British artists of the period. The paintings reflect the process of creating a special “truly English” material and visual context of tea drinking, which displaced all “oriental allusions” from this ceremony, to create a specific entourage and etiquette of tea consumption, and set nationally determined patterns of behavior at the tea table. The analysis shows the presence of English traditions of tea drinking visualization. The canvases of British artists, unlike the Russian ones, never reflect social problems: tea parties take place against the background of either well-furnished interiors or beautiful landscapes, being a visual embodiment of Great Britain as a “paradise of the prosperous bourgeoisie”, manifesting the bourgeois virtues. Special attention is paid to the role of the women in this ritual, the theme of the relationship between mothers and children. A unique English painting theme, which has not been manifested in any other art school in the world, is a children’s tea party. Victorian paintings reflect the processes of democratization of society: representatives of the lower classes appear on canvases. Paintings do not only reflect the norms and ideals that existed in the society, but also provide the set patterns for it.

KEYWORDS

tea parties in Britain, British Victorian art, visual sources, social and cultural studies, national tradition

REFERENCE

NORDSCI International Conference 2021, Book 1, Conference Proceedings, ISSN 2603-4127, ISBN 978-619-7495-14-20, VISUALIZATION OF EVERYDAY SOCIAL AND CULTURAL PRACTICES: VICTORIAN PAINTING AS A MIRROR OF THE ENGLISH TEA PARTY TRADITION, 421-430 pp, DOI paper 10.32008/NORDSCI2021/B1/V4/37