The aim of this paper is to consider the changing nature of the reflective practices between those writers and artists engaged in urban discourse in the second half of the nineteenth century, and in particular to interrogate the assumption which forms the basis of our understanding of the Sister Arts tradition that Victorian genre painting in addressing the problem of urban depiction is materially influenced during this period by the description of the urban world. In particular this paper will consider depictions of London by William Powell Frith, and James McNeill Whistler, and will position these urban depictions against descriptions of the urban milieu by the writers Charles Dickens, Henry Mayhew, G. Walter Thornbury, Oscar Wilde and Arthur Symons.
Positioning my argument within the context of recent scholarship concerning the Sister Arts tradition I will begin this analysis by considering the influence of Charles Dickens on the work of Frith. I will then consider Whistler's own position regarding the Sister Arts tradition and his influence upon writers of the period. I will conclude by arguing that during the last quarter of the century the pattern of this relationship began to operate in the opposite direction.