Saturday, 8 September 2012

Happy Pre-Raphaelite Day!

It's a good day to be a Pre-Raphaelite lover because today is the unofficial anniversary of the formation of our most beloved Brotherhood.  Not only that, we're only days away from the opening of the Tate's splendid exhibition!  Oh jubilations indeed!  Now I'm not one to be grumpy, but some of the press coverage of the Pre-Raphaelites of late has been somewhat rubbish, all mocking, cynical and sneering.  If you had read any of the articles in the national press in the last week or two you'd be forgiven for thinking that the movement consisted of sex, drugs and death, and not a great deal more, whereas only one artist in the movement could ever have his life feasible condensed down to such a crude smudge.  The problem I have with journalism today is that it seems so easy and clever to look down and dismiss things, especially when they are popular.  Is it so scary to say 'Do you know what, I love that because it makes me happy, it warms me up on the inside, it is beautiful'?  Do we fear that people will say 'You're wrong, it's rubbish' and we'd be caught admiring the Emperor's New Clothes?  Well, look at it this way, possibly some of the people cheering the Emperor just thought he looked nice in the nude, but I digress...

I think I finally snapped when I reached this particular article which was so shot through with all the old stories, smut and things that just weren't true. Kelmscott wasn't Rossetti and Jane's shag-pad!  Elizabeth didn't commit suicide, or at least you can't just spout that as a truth when it might not be so!

The thing is, I rather liked the idea of an A B C of Pre-Raphaelitism, a chance to go through all the great stuff behind the movement we love, the paintings we swoon over, the artists we admire, the models we feel we know so well, and so in light of this here is mine...

A is for Annie Miller, Alexa Wilding and Aestheticism.  It's also for Awakening Conscience, April Love, Astarte Syriaca and Autumn Leaves...

Autumn Leaves  (1856) J E Millais

B is for Burne-Jones, Brown, Boyce and Byam Shaw.  Oh and of course, Brotherhood.  It's also for Beata Beatrix and Blue Bower...

The Blue Bower (1865) D G Rossetti
C is for Chaucer and Carlisle, Collins and Collinson and Julia Margaret Cameron.  It's for Chelsea, Chatham Place and Cheyne Walk...

Chatham Place, sadly no longer with us.

D is for Dante and Dickens, for Dyce, Deverell and Dicksee.  D is not for Death, it's never that simple.  D is also for Dames, both 'Belle' and 'Sans Merci'.

La Belle Dame Sans Merci Frank Dicksee
E is for Elizabeth, Egley and Ecce Ancilla Domini!

Ecce Ancilla Domini! (1850) D G Rossetti
F is for Fanny, it is always for Fanny.  But it is also for Found and for Fortescue-Brickdale.  But mainly it's for Fanny.

Study for Found (Fanny Cornforth) (1854-6ish) D G Rossetti
G is for Grosvenor Gallery, Gneiss Rock and The Germ.  It's also for Gotch and those glorious Golden Stairs...

The Golden Stairs (1880) Edward Burne-Jones
H is for Holman Hunt and Hughes.  It's not for Howell (see 'O') and it really shouldn't be for Highgate.  It's for Huguenots, Hylas and of course, The Hireling Shepherd...

The Hireling Shepherd William Holman Hunt
I is for 'I am half sick of Shadows', Idylls of the Kings and Isabella whether she's with her pot of basil or not...

Isabella and the Pot of Basil (1868) W Holman Hunt
J is for Janey, Jerusalem and Jesus, who never looked hotter...

Jesus Washing Peter's Feet (1856-90s, really, it took forever)  Ford Madox Brown
K is for Kelmscott (Manor, House and Press), Keats, Kipling and Keomi the Gypsy.  It's also for King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid...

King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid (1884) Edward Burne-Jones
L is for Ladies of Shalott, Leighton, Leyland, Light of the World and Long Engagement.  L is also for Love, among the ruins and the maiden, and the pilgrim, and it is enough...

Tomb of Frederick Richards Leyland, designed by Burne-Jones
M is for Millais, Martineau, Mariana, Mirrors, Morris, Marshall (Faulkner and Co), Malory and Morte d'Arthur...

Mariana (1851) J E Millais
N is for Nazarenes, Nymphs and Nature...

Natural Ornament (study) J E Millais
O is for 'Owell, Ophelia, and Oxford.  O is also for Order of Release and Our English Coasts...

Please let the Tate make novelty pens where she floats about in the top half of the pen...
P is for Prinsep, Pippa Passing, Perseus, Phyllis and Demophoon, Pygmalian and Proud Maisie...oh and Pre-Raphaelite.

Proud Maisie Frederic Sandys
Q is for Queens, both Guinevere and Eleanor...

Queen Eleanor and Fair Rosamund Evelyn de Morgan

R is for Red House, Sloshua Reynolds, Rossetti (all three of them), Ruskin and the Royal Academy.  It's for Romance and for Rienzi with the long title...

Rienzi Vowing to continue the YMCA even though his brother has dropped dead...
It's hard to do one-handed...
S is for Sandys, Scapegoat, Seddon, sleeping beauty, Shakespeare, Simeon Solomon, Stephens (sigh), and Swinburne...

Scapegoat (1854) William Holman Hunt
T is for Topsy, Tennyson and Too Late...

Too Late (1858) William Windus
U is for Utopia, useless journalism and Ulysses...

Ulysses and the Sirens (1891) J W Waterhouse
V is for Venus Verticordia, Vale of Rest, Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus and Veronica Veronese.  It's not for Queen Victoria, even though she own a Holman Hunt, it really wasn't her sort of thing.

(Mr Walker asked for 'V is for Venus' - there you go, dearest)
W is for Watts, Webb, Woolner, Waterhouse and the almighty Work...

Work (1859-63) Ford Madox Brown
X is for Xrays of our favourite paintings showing us where things were before (in the case of Venus Verticordia) or absolutely nothing (in the case of Holman Hunt, who scraped Annie well and truly out).  I look forward to more paintings being xrayed in the future to see what lies beneath...

Annie, are you okay?  Hunt removes Annie from his paintings and life...
Y is for youth.  We forget how young they were when the Brotherhood was formed.  The chaps were late teens or early twenties and were making a serious play to change the face of art.  Many teenage boys I know have difficulty changing their socks....

Z is for Zambaco, because nothing else begins with Z that I can think of, seeing as they were never good enough to paint Zebras or Zebedee from The Magic Roundabout.

Anyway, this has gone on far too long and it's time to clear off and go and eat a celebratory cake...

Chocolate cupcake with a forged Rossetti monogram on top.  I call it the Rosa Corder...
Anyway, Happy Pre-Raphaelite Day!


  1. Okay, if the Tate sells the floating Ophelia pens, I'll fly over there just especially so I can buy some! ;o)

  2. hurrah hurrah! i'm glad you've provided us with an alternative PRB ABC to go by;

  3. Brilliant! This is why I love you.

  4. Now THAT's a Pre-Raphaelite alphabet! Well done. (And I'm jealous of your cakes!)

  5. Awesome, Kirsty. A great rebuttal to that awful article. You forgot "wombats" for W, though...

  6. Maybe Z is also for zoo? The one Rossetti kept in his backyard :P So excited for the exhibition and this post contributed to the excitement! :)

  7. "I call it the Rosa Corder", ha ha!! Love it.

  8. Love love love this! Love love the Rossetti cupcakes, and your caption for Rienzi made me practically choke with laughter.

  9. I forgot Wombats! Mind you Topsy can cover both the grumpy furry one, and the wombat.

    Z for zoo! Inspired! I don't think Rossetti ever owned a zebra, but it probably wasn't for want of trying.

    Thank you for your comments and roll on the Tate exhibition!

  10. Ooh yes to that - I'm also Tate-bound fairly soon, so looking forward. Love the post - a few things spring to mind. Firstly in "Jesus washing the feet of St Peter", there is a depiction of Rossetti centre back, with his arm around someone who looks (tho a bit crude) like a version of Lizzie. As a rare image of them together it's quite touching. Secondly Anthony Hopkins nicked that pose in "Too Late" in "Howards End". And the cupcakes rock. x

  11. Good stuff...& very entertaining! :)

  12. The cupcakes are delicious, obviously. Thank you, I too will be in London this Saturday for the 11am entry to the exhibition. If you see me, come and say hello!

  13. Cupcakes and art! I hope you have a fabulous time at the exhibition...just try not to slap the uncomprehending, OK?

  14. I'm over-excited and must contain myself. I won't slap anyone, I promise :)

  15. Fantastic post. I am incredibly jealous of all those who will get to see the Tate exhibition. Alas, I do not live in London and have no way of getting there, part of me wants to avoid anything PRB-related for the next few months becasue I am so depressed about this :(

  16. Sam, I sympathize. I'm at least in the South, so it is a do-able jaunt, albeit rather pricey to get to London. If you are anywhere near Birmingham then they have a rather lovely exhibition of Victorian pictures on at present too (which I will endeavor to see in October) (again, another jaunt!)

  17. Thank you for this great article! "Useless Journalism" indeed!! That pathetic drivel in that rag of a newspaper seems to have lifted most of its "information" from Desperate Romantics.

    I would so love to be able to visit that exhibition however... It must be stunning! And the curators hopefully would be better than the ones I came into contact with in the Australian "Pre-Raphaelite Drawing" exhibition - when my Dad and I bought our tickets the lady asked us why we were wasting our money here instead of at the Modernism exhibition. We set her to rights! (And bought the glorious book on PRB Drawing too, to add to my shelf behind my bed :)) Truly though, there is nothing to beat seeing the actual drawings and paintings that the artists themselves touched and to think that, but for the odd century or so, I could be standing beside them watching their fingers make the master-strokes...

  18. Thank you Laura :) I feel that we're mounting the rebuttal on the blogs now - see Robert Parry's latest post (listed on my right-hand bar). I'll be there on Saturday, so expect to hear from me at the weekend. I can't wait!


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx