Monday, 24 September 2012

The Long Weekend of Love: Romance! Well, Sort Of...

So, my dearest darlings, we reach the end of the long weekend of love and I had intended to do a piece on the most romantic works of Victorian art.  I mean, how hard can that be?  Pre-Raphaelite art seems to be almost defined by it's swooning romantic vibe, and the Victorians were suckers for a good love story, so it shouldn't be difficult to find some scenes of pure, sweet romance...

How wrong I was.

For starters, the image had to be not only a romantic image, but also an image about romance.  It's not good enough that I feel all warm and dizzy looking at it, Lord knows I get a bit like that on a regular basis looking at the oddest of things, but the subject of the picture should be love.  Also, I immediately crippled myself by stipulating that the scene should be all sweet and no bitter.  I didn't want some pretty image of a kissing couple if immediately afterwards they would die or be plunged in hell or go mad.  You know, the usual stuff.

Oh, and it had to be good.

Now the field had been well and truly narrowed I realised that most, if not all of my favourite romantic pictures come a cropper by being tragic in some way.  For example, take this beauty...

La Belle Dame Sans Merci Frank Dicksee
I have a terrible weakness for this picture, but we all know how it will end.  He'll wake up with a hangover in an elfin grot, which kind of ruins the effect and sounds revolting.  It has such promise of beauty, utter infatuated adoration and a good looking chap with shiny thighs, but goes so badly wrong.  What about this then...?

Paolo and Francesca da Rimini (1855) D G Rossetti
Ah, look, it's so sweet and lovely and...oops, they're burning for eternity in the second circle of Hell.  Rats.  But you see my problem, the embracing couples just keep spoiling my romantic notions with their miserable back-stories...

The Black Brunswicker (1860) J E Millais
I love you!  The dog loves you! Oh, you're dead in battle.  What a swizz.

A Huguenot on St Bartholomew's Day (1852) J E Millais
I love you!  Wear this armband!  What do you mean, no?  Oh, you're dead.  Rats.

Romeo and Juliet (1867) Ford Madox Brown
I love you!  I love you!  I'm sure our families will understand!  Oh, we're both dead.

Will everyone just stop dying!  I'm trying to get romantic!  This is ridiculous.  I even began to worry about what certain choices of 'romantic' art said about me.  Should I be concerned that all of the pictures I thought of as being romantic involved people being murdered or dying miserably?  I think the worst moment was when I tried to recall a particularly romantic picture I had seen and when I looked it up, it turned out to be this...

Ajax and Cassandra (1886) Solomon J Solomon
Well, it didn't look that dodgy in my memory, for some reason I thought he was carrying her to safety and I think we should move on swiftly.

There must be something, surely one good romantic picture came out of the nineteenth century, without anyone dying or being carried off by an extremely muscly man or become a victim of a religious purge?

Hesperus, the Evening Star, Sacred to Lovers (1857) Joseph Noel Paton
That's better.  These two look quite healthy and there is no alarming back-story apparent, so I'm cautiously optimistic.  This might actually be my sweet romance that I have been looking for....

Wedded (1882) Frederic Leighton
Look at these two, all married and happy, how lovely.  However, I am left a little underwhelmed by them, jolly nice though they are.  Could it be that I need a bit of tragedy to get me in the mood.  That's a worrying thought.  Why can't I feel warm and fuzzy about an image where no-one dies?

Portrait of Effie Ruskin J E Millais
It then occurred to me that possibly my problem was that the 'nice' pictures of romance just didn't convey the strength of emotion behind them to really move you.  Romance shouldn't be a diluted, pretty thing, not if it contains real passion, real intent, not if it's going to withstand life and all it has to throw at you.  Take Millais picture of Effie, above.  You know that he loves that woman.  You know that he and she are willing and able to think the unthinkable, that she would declare something painful and private in order to leave her important husband and possibly ruin the career of her lover.  Yet he will risk ruination, she will risk shame.  But the romance is in the eye of the painter, it is not actually a 'scene' of romance...

Meeting on the Turret Stair Frederick William Burton
Ah, I like this one, you actually feel the strength of emotion present between these two lovers.  So finally, here we are, a scene of passion, of romance, of unbridled love where you can't even pass each other without stealing a kiss.  Theirs is a love of passion and innocence, totally without any sadness and tragedy.  I'm sure they will live a long and happy life together...

What do you mean he kills most of her family then dies and she snuffs it from a broken heart?!  Oh rats...


  1. I love that I've found a blog where I haven't seen half the art that's posted up. So many new jewels for me!

  2. I'm glad you're enjoying it. I do enjoy finding more obscure pictures, there are so many gorgeous images out there! Thanks Grace :)

  3. These are lovely. Stumbled upon your blog while looking for paisley design outfits. Your blog is so inspiring - bookmarked! Looking forward to reading more.

  4. Well, hello Stranger! Thank you, and I hope you found your paisley design outfits...

  5. Surely you've heard of "the wreck of the Hesperus"... ? 8-)


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