|Jane Burden (1858)|
|Pandora D G Rossetti|
|Jane Morris (1865) John R Parsons|
|Study for Mnemosyne (1876) D G Rossetti|
Whilst getting caught up in the beautiful swirling chalks that surround you, it would be easy to lose sight of the reality but the final wall draws you back to Jane the woman. Evelyn de Morgan’s heartbreaking study of an elderly Jane for The Hourglass, together with some photographs of Jane, no longer the focus of attention and looking disappointed and impatient, show the remains of a stunner, but I think the standout part of the exhibition for me was a spectacular bedspread, embroidered in William Morris’ design for Honeysuckle from around 1880 and embroidered by Jane and her daughter Jenny. The sheer scale of the piece together with the skill and beauty of it defeats the notion that Jane was a vision without substance and left me feeling a little sad that Rossetti’s image of her as the passive goddess overwhelms reality. It simply remains as a reminder that we cannot know Jane through the eyes of the artist, she is merely a reflection of himself. To seek to know anyone through the art of another does a disservice to the subject and the interest of this exhibition is the discomfort it provides in reminding you of this.
The reason for the delay in my review is that I have just had the pleasure of spending a long weekend with artist Margje Bijl, who you will remember from her exhibition (see my post here) earlier in the year. Who better to attend the exhibition with than someone who explores the nature of Jane’s image in her art? I had the pleasure of taking Margje off to Kelmscott, to visit both the manor and the graves and again felt the conflict of the Jane of our imagination and the woman who lay beneath the grave in the churchyard. I suppose that is forever the paradox of being a muse.