Celebrating Shakespeare

Happy Birthday to William Shakespeare, born on this day in 1564.  Today is also the anniversary of the Bard’s death.  Dare I say it?  Dying on your birthday is a dramatically Shakespearean thing to do. When a young group of artists founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 they drew up a list of ‘Immortals’, made…
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It’s Earth Day!

In Modern Painters, John Ruskin urged artists to “go to nature in all singleness of heart… rejecting nothing, selecting nothing and scorning nothing; believing all things to be right and good, and rejoicing always in the truth.” The Pre-Raphaelites and their followers took this advice to heart. In Millais’ Ophelia, for example, we can see…
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The Grey Lady

‘The Grey Lady’ (1883) is an interesting work by Millais in which we see the ghost of a murdered woman.  The staircase was taken from St. Mary’s Tower, Birnam, a building that has since been demolished but you can see photographs of it here taken in 1963.  The artist’s son described the work in The…
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Exploring La Bella Mano

Iconic Pre-Raphaelite paintings like Millias’ Ophelia, Rossetti’s Proserpine, or practically any Lady of Shalott garner a lot of attention.  (Rightly so.)  Of course, there are also several works that might not capture your eye right away when you see them in books or online, but in person they captivate you so unexpectedly and completely that…
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Happy Birthday,William Holman Hunt!

William Holman Hunt, one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, was born on this day in 1827.  Today I’d like to share some of my favorite Holman Hunt works. Truth to nature was one of the main tenets of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and an excellent example of this can be seen in the…
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In a World of Her Own

I’ve seen  Pre-Raphaelite paintings  of women  dismissed as ‘languid’ or ‘vapid’ and many critics view them as sensual images created solely for the male gaze. That’s a fair argument, of course, but I feel it’s a point of view that barely scratches the surface. To me, Pre-Raphaelite women are not shallow objects of beauty, but…
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The Kelmscott Chaucer

In 1891, William Morris founded the Kelmscott Press in an effort to realize his vision of creating exquisitely crafted books.  Joining him in this endeavor was his longtime friend Sir Edward Burne-Jones, who contributed over one hundred designs to Kelmscott Press editions. The books they created were unique in their craftsmanship and beauty, which you…
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Kirsty Stonell Walker on Fanny Cornforth

Today marks the  anniversary of the death of Pre-Raphaelite model Fanny Cornforth.  She held an important place in the life of artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, yet she has long been derided and  dismissed because of her dubious background.  Her final years were a mystery until biographer Kirsty Stonell Walker shed light on them. To honor…
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Music is Hope

Have you ever noticed that Pandora is a lot like Eve?  Eve is to blame for being cast out of Eden, Pandora is to blame for unleashing evil into the world. Both stories can be ways to judge women harshly for their curiosity and instinctive need to pursue knowledge. Yet if Pandora is to be…
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Circe the Enchantress

The works of John William Waterhouse often blend feminine beauty and mystery.  Above is Circe Invidiosa, his depiction of the goddess Circe. With a sumptuous  blend of greens and blues, he created a world that draws us in and mesmerizes. It’s as if you can feel yourself transported into Circe’s world. You can hear the water…
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Aesthetic Vampirism

Literature is filled with fictional portraits. Visual art and the written word can intertwine in glorious ways. Dorian Gray’s mysteriously aging painting springs to mind and both the image of Lady Audley in Lady Audley’s Secret and descriptions of art in The Woman in White are excellent examples of Pre-Raphaelite principles used within a novel….
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Melusine

Tomorrow the Pre-Raphaelite Society will hold its first online book meeting on Twitter and I hope you’ll join us.  We’ll be discussing A.S. Byatt’s book Possession,  a book that holds a special place in my heart.  When I first read it I was a seventeen-year-old girl with an intense literary craving.  It was Sir Edward…
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Dear 2017,

Well, hello there 2017! We’ve barely begun to get acquainted. I don’t have a feel for you yet. You still hold that thrilling newness and I can not peek inside of you. But I know that right now, you are magical. At this moment you are twelve months of possibility. And I long to dwell…
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May the Force Be With You

When Victorian artist Ford Madox Brown saw William Charles Macready play King Lear, the performance inspired the artist so much that he passionately sketched and painted several depictions of it. (You can see one above. Cordelia is modeled by Brown’s wife Emma, the fool is fellow artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti.)  This is the kind of…
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#PRSBook Club: Let’s Read Possession!

The Pre-Raphaelite Society is bringing their book club to Twitter! This is exciting news and I’m honored to be a part of it.  I hope you will read along with us and join in on what promises to be a great discussion.  I am especially happy that using a venue like Twitter will help open…
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Goblin Market

“We must not look at goblin men, We must not buy their fruits:” Written in 1859 by  Christina Rossetti (sister to Dante Gabriel Rossetti), Goblin Market is a narrative poem of two sisters who encounter temptation. It is a complex poem–almost too complex to delve into for a blog post simply because it is hard…
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A Primordial Venus

I’ve written about Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s painting Astarte Syriaca (1877) more than once on this blog, saying in Those Rossetti Lips:  She could totally crush you.  It’s a powerful painting, one of my favorites. I realize that it may not be to everyone’s taste. Especially if you are not already a Rossetti fan, it could come…
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Menacing Beauty

“There’s always a siren singing you to shipwreck.” – Radiohead, “There, There” Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse depicts a scene from Jason and the Argonauts.  Hylas was the son of King Theiodamas, who was killed in battle by Herakles.  Herakles then raised Hylas as his own. Known for both his striking beauty and his…
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Painting the Soul

At the age of twenty-one, Dante Gabriel Rossetti wrote the short story Hand and Soul, which was published in The Germ, a short-lived magazine created by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.    Not only does the story  offer a glimpse into the young Rossetti’s beliefs and aspirations  but it seems to be the only work of fiction…
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Marigolds, Sacred Flowers for the Dead

Our Halloween revelry is over and now we honor our ancestors with the Day of the Dead.  Throughout Mexico and the Southwestern U.S.,  this is Dia de los Muertos, a special event that focuses on togetherness of family and friends and honoring those who have passed on.  It is a beautiful way to honor the…
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Halloween, Pre-Raphaelites, and Keats

I think Sir John Everett Millais’ painting Speak! Speak! is a perfect Pre-Raphaelite image to share on Halloween.   The ghost of a bride appears to her love.  He reaches out to her, urging her to speak. It’s a haunting image and the concept had been on the artist’s mind for forty years before he…
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