Friday, September 28, 2012

Tate Exhibition poster

from the Tate shop

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A family group at Broadlands, mid-1870s, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The Cowper-Temples, who inherited Broadlands on the death of Lord Palmerston in 1865, were closely associated with patronage of the arts and spiritualism. A series of Broadlands conferences on the higher life were held at the house in the 1870s. Other visitors included the artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, probably pictured here at the right of the image, leaning against the column. The young girl in the foreground is the Cowper-Temples’ adopted daughter, Juliet. Lady Cowper-Temple had a long-standing friendship with Constance Wilde (Mrs Oscar Wilde), and a substantial number of letters from her survives in the archive.

Thanks for spotting this Kirsty

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Carlisle Wall (The Lovers) 1853

Watercolour on paper

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Christina Rossetti, Frome, Somerset

About seven miles from where I type. She and her mother ran a young ladies school in Frome (Brunswick Place on the Trowbridge Rd) from April 1852- Autumn 1854. She was the niece of the governess at Longleat House, which is presumably what made them choose Frome to locate the school (they were Londoners). The school was not profitable, and they gave up the venture and returned to London.

George Price Boyce= Landscape at Wotton, Surrey: Autumn 1864-5

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pre-Raphaelite Exhibition at the Tate - Woman's Hour talk

Curator Alison Smith takes Jane around the exhibition, where there are paintings by Elizabeth Siddall, Jane Burden and Rosa Brett, and pieces by Jane Morris, Elizabeth Burden and May Morris.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Three Curators

Alison Smith, Curator (Head of British Art to 1900),
Tate Britain; Tim Barringer, Professor of History of Art at Yale University,
Jason Rosenfeld, Distinguished Chair and Professor of Art History at Marymount Manhattan College, New York.

(God I hate the new Blogger editor!!)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Beata Beatrix, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, c.1864-70

“Oh never weep for love that’s dead
Since love is seldom true
But changes his fashion from blue to red,
From brightest red to blue,
And love was born to an early death
And is so seldom true.
Then harbour no smile on your bonny face
To win the deepest sigh.
The fairest words on truest lips
Pass on and surely die,
And you will stand alone, my dear,
When wintry winds draw nigh.

Sweet, never weep for what cannot be,
For this God has not given.
If the merest dream of love were true
Then, sweet, we should be in heaven,
And this is only earth, my dear,
Where true love is not given.”
— Dead Love -Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal

A Young Beauty in a Green Hat, Albert Lynch. Peruvian (1851 - 1912)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant Garde at Tate Britain


Thomas Woolner - Puck Date 1845-7

his plaster statuette of Puck, the troublesome fairy in Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was first exhibited at the British Institution 1847. William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) describes a visit to Woolner’s studio earlier that year when the sculptor showed himPuck ‘with much paternal fondness’ (quoted in Read and Barnes, p.142). According to the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, Woolner was illustrating an incident from the ‘Imaginary Biography of Puck’: ‘As he was sailing through the air one day, searching for wherewith to please his humorous malice, right well was he satisfied to alight upon a mushroom and awaken a sleeping frog, of which a hungry snake was about to make a meal’ (Parris, p.49). The left leg of the sprite is firmly placed on the giant mushroom and, as described in the passage, he is about to startle the frog with his right. Meanwhile the snake, which has wound itself around the top of the mushroom, is poised to catch the unsuspecting frog. The fairy himself has a mischievous smile which shows pleasure in saving the frog, while spiting the snake of his meal. The sculpture captures a split second of time before a sudden movement, as Puck will touch the frog, which will jump away just before the snake lunges forward.

Woolner was the only sculptor member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which was founded in 1848, one year after this sculpture was made. The Brotherhood drew heavily on Shakespeare and based many of their paintings on characters and incidents from his plays. For example, in successive exhibitions at the Royal Academy, in 1850 and 1851, John Everett Millais (1829-96) showed Ferdinand Lured by Ariel and Hunt Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus. In addition to the Shakespearean subject matter, Puck exemplifies the leaf by leaf realism which characterises Pre-Raphaelite paintings. The mottled snakeskin and the detailed musculature of the fairy demonstrate the degree of naturalism which Woolner was striving to obtain. The consequences of these efforts were to surface again twelve years later when Woolner was sculpting a bust of the naturalist, Charles Darwin (1809-82). Woolner mentioned to him that he had modelled Puck’s pointed ears after studying the vestigial ‘tips’ that appear on some human ears. He made a drawing of his observations which Darwin chose to include amongst the illustrations of The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871).

Puck should also be linked to the Victorian obsession with fairies and other magical creatures. Maas’s remark that ‘Fairy painting was close to the centre of the Victorian subconscious’ (Martineau, p.11) is borne out by the large number of paintings of goblins, elves and sprites by Richard Dadd (1817-86), Daniel Maclise (1806-70) and Robert Huskisson (1819-61). The trend for pictures of these imaginary creatures, however, dates back to the late eighteenth century, and Woolner may have been familiar with the Puck Tate N05384) which Reynolds (1723-92) made for Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery, and the imaginary Fairyland which Fuseli (1741-1825) conjured for his Titania’s Awakening, (1785-90). It was only in the mid nineteenth century, however, that sculptors began to tackle subjects from Shakespeare. This was partly in response to a campaign to decorate the Houses of Parliament in 1844 and 1845, for which sculptors were given the freedom to choose a subject of their own choice. John Henry Foley (1818-74) and Frederick Thrupp (1812-95) can be included amongst a number of sculptors who chose Shakespearean subjects. The subject was unusual though for Woolner and, with the exception of Ophelia which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1869, he was forced to accept commissions for portrait busts to make a living.

Puck was praised by the sculptor John Lucas Tupper (ca. 1823-79), as ‘the puissant sprite of Shakespeare’ (quoted in Benedict Read and Joanna Barnes, p.142) and by Coventry Patmore, for whom Woolner made a plaster cast of Puck in 1849, as ‘the product of a grotesque fantasy in harmony with the modern mind’ (quoted in Benedict Read and Joanna Barnes, p.142). Two bronze casts have been made, one in 1865 for Louisa, Lady Ashburton and the other in 1908 for Sir John Bland-Sutton of Middlesex Hospital.

Further reading:
F.G. Stephens, ‘Thomas Woolner RA’, Art Journal, LVI, March 1894, p.82, illustrated p.82
Leslie Parris, ed., The Pre-Raphaelites, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery London 1984, pp.48-9, reproduced p.49
Benedict Read and Joanna Barnes, eds., Pre-Raphaelite Sculpture: Nature and Imagination in
British Sculpture 1848-1914, exhibition catalogue, The Matthiesen Gallery, London and Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery 1991, pp.141-2, reproduced plates 53 a-c
Jane Martineau, ed., Victorian Fairy Painting, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London, University of Iowa Museum of Art and Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto 1998

Heather Birchall
September 2003

Arthur Hughes - The Drunken Cabman for 'At the Back of the North Wind' Date c.1870

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Victorian Era Pre Raphaelite Rebels Fill Tate Britan

RAW VIDEO: Victorian Era Pre Raphaelite Rebels... by NewsLook

BBC version

Arthur Hughes - Studies for 'April Love' c.1856

Graphite and ink wash on paper

This is one of a number of similar designs which Hughes produced while working on April Love (Tate Gallery N02476). The sketch was presented by the artist to his friend the sculptor Alexander Munro (1825-71). Munro is said to have posed for the young man in the picture (letter from Margaret Munro, 20 August 1959, in Tate Gallery files). Hughes shared a studio with Munro at 6 Upper Belgrave Place, London from 1852 to 1858.

Further reading:
Leslie Parris (ed.), The Pre-Raphaelites, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1984, reprinted 1994, pp.137-8
Leonard Roberts, introduction by Stephen Wildman, Arthur Hughes: His Life and Works, a Catalogue Raisonné, Woodbridge, Suffolk [to be published 1997]

Terry Riggs
December 1997

Arthur Hughes - Aurora Leigh's Dismissal of Romney ('The Tryst') 1860

Oil on board

Miss Ellen Heaton, a patron of Rossetti, commissioned this painting for thirty pounds on the recommendation of the critic John Ruskin, who told her that Hughes was 'quite safe - every-body will like what he does ... his sense of beauty is quite exquisite' (Surtees, p.175). The subject is taken from the narrative poem 'Aurora Leigh' (1856) by Elizabeth Barret Browning, who was a friend of Miss Heaton. Aurora, an orphan raised by her aunt, aspires to be a poetess. On the morning of her twentieth birthday she rejects a marriage proposal by her cousin Romney Leigh. She chooses to devote herself to her vocation in defiance of Romney, who disparages her verses and wants her to dedicate herself to his philanthropic causes. Aurora tells Romney that what he loves 'Is not a woman, Romney, but a cause: | You want a helpmate, not a mistress, sir. | A wife to help your ends, - in her no end!'

The painting depicts the moment when Romney has been refused and is about to take his leave. Aurora holds a book of her verses which Romney has found in the garden and made fun of. Miss Heaton and Hughes disagreed over which scene in the poem should be depicted. The patron had wanted an earlier incident, but in a letter dated 14 December 1860, Hughes said, 'The moment I chose to paint was the best - Romney turning away ... If I had not chosen that moment, the story as Romney's dismissal would I think have been confused - it would rather have seemed a quarrel of which we did not see the end nor know the cause' (Mander, p.222). Ruskin sided with the artist. Miss Heaton also wanted Aurora shown in a white dress as in the poem, but Hughes felt that a sea-green dress would better complement the landscape. He had trouble with the composition, and asked Miss Heaton in the December letter 'kindly to pay me the price of the frame 632 - separate from the thirty guineas for the painting, as it has really cost me a great deal more time than I thought such a subject would have' (Mander, pp.222-3). He painted out Romney's hat twice; the overpainting has since become transparent, and traces of the two hats can be seen. He may have used himself and his wife, Tryphena, as the models for the figures. Miss Heaton must eventually have become reconciled to the picture, as the same month she commissioned from Hughes another painting, That was a Piedmontese ... (1862, Tate Gallery N05244), which again required Ruskin's intervention to mediate between the two parties.

Aurora Leigh's Dismissal of Romney was never exhibited in Hughes's lifetime, and remained virtually undocumented and the subject unidentified until Rosalie Mander's 1964 article '"The Tryst" Unravelled', in Apollo.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Arthur Hughes- That was a Piedmontese ... 1862

Oil on wood

This was the second of Hughes's paintings to be commissioned by Miss Ellen Heaton of Leeds (see also Aurora Leigh's Dismissal of Romney ('The Tryst'), 1860, Tate Gallery N05245). Miss Heaton and Hughes began discussing the commission in December 1860, but the work was not completed until 1862. The patron paid thirty-five guineas for the work.

The subject is from the poem 'A Court Lady' by Elizabeth Barret Browning, who was a friend of Miss Heaton. It appeared in Poems before Congress, published in 1860. The poem describes a beautiful young woman who puts on full court dress in order to visit hospitalised soldiers who fought in the Risorgimento. Her maids dress her in

Diamonds to fasten the hair, diamonds to fasten the sleeves
Laces to drop from their rays, like a powder of snow from the eves.
The woman goes from bed to bed and stops at last at the bedside of the Piedmontese who dies before her eyes:
Back he fell while she spoke. She rose to her feet with a spring -
'That was a Piedmontese! and this is the Court of the King'.
The last line is written in paint on the frame, which is the original.

Miss Heaton was disappointed with Hughes's failure to capture the drama of the last verse. In a letter to her of 7 July 1862, the artist explained, 'I don't know if I shall be able to satisfy you with my reason for painting the Court lady as I have done but it is simply this - that I don't like "fervid impassioned exclamation" and have an especial horror of all such pictures. I prefer the quieter moment that must have followed it and which I feel I can be more successful in' (Mander, p.223). The critic John Ruskin, who had originally introduced Miss Heaton to Hughes, thought the picture 'exquisitely beautiful in the face of the woman - a very perfect gem in this kind' but was critical of the artist's failure to faithfully depict the poem: 'the whole gist of the poem is that the woman puts on her richest Court dress - that which she would have worn to wait on the King - that she may wait on the dying men in that. Hughes has not in the least felt or understood this' (Mander, p.223).

Further reading:
Rosalie Mander, '"The Tryst" Unravelled', Apollo, vol.79, March 1964, p.223, reproduced
Virginia Surtees (ed.), Sublime & Instructive. Letters from John Ruskin to Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, Anna Blunden and Ellen Heaton, London 1972, pp.228-9, 244-5
Leonard Roberts, introduction by Stephen Wildman, Arthur Hughes: His Life and Works, a Catalogue Raisonné, Woodbridge, Suffolk [to be published 1997]

Pre-Raphaelites as costume drama: Victorians in all their lurid glory

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde, review

Monday, September 10, 2012

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Hesterna Rosa 1853

James Smetham - The Eve of St Agnes 1858

Pen and ink and watercolour on paper

From early on in his career Smetham was an admirer of Blake and his work. Smetham's deep sympathy for the artist revealed itself in a long and perceptive article about Blake which he published in 1869. In the eyes of his friend D.G Rossetti, the intensity of Smetham's vision and his highly individual inventiveness was akin to Blake's. This drawing illustrates a passage from John Keats's poem 'The Eve of St Agnes' which was published in 1820. Madeline, with her lover Porphyro, is fleeing by night from that 'mansion foul' which is her home. This is probably a sketch for a picture which Smetham exhibited in Liverpool in 1859.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Rossetti's Wombat Seated in his Master's Lap by William Bell Scott

In 1862, after the death of his wife, Elizabeth Siddal, Rossetti had moved to 16 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea. The house had a large garden that soon became a miniature zoo. Rossetti, fond of visiting the wombats at London Zoo, had two ‘pet’ wombats, buying one in 1869 from the wild animal supplier, Charles Jamrach. Rossetti also had kangaroos and wallabies, armadillos, a racoon, a Canadian woodchuck and a Japanese salamander, as well as larger animals like a zebu. He even discussed the purchase of an African elephant with Jamrach.

On receiving his own wombat, he wrote to his brother describing it as ‘a Joy, a Triumph, a Delight, a Madness’. This celebrated wombat he named Top and sketched it led on a leash by Jane Morris, wife of William Morris. By all accounts, Morris was a cold husband and Jane had an intimate relationship with Rossetti which spanned decades. Perhaps it seems a little odd that he should place two objects of his affection together in this way – but odder still that they both wear halos.

However, Top was not long for this world, lasting only a couple of months, and dying despite a vet’s visit in November of 1869. When Top passed on, Rossetti drew a self portrait mourning the loss. He had Top stuffed and displayed him in the entrance to 16 Cheyne Walk.

Wombats are quite large animals, growing to about a metre in length, and Top himself seems quite large in both of Rossetti’s sketches. This drawing, done in 1871 by his friend William Bell Scott on 16 Cheyne Walk notepaper, clearly shows a small animal nestling in Rossetti’s lap – making it perhaps unlikely to be a remaining wombat. Angus Trumble, in his excellent lecture on the subject of the wombat in Victorian Britain and specifically for the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood suggests that this is in fact Rossetti’s Canadian woodchuck.

John Everett Millais - Illustration from the poem 'Maid Avoraine' by Robert Buchanan