The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

First, A Little Background Since its inception in the late 18th century, the Royal Academy was the hub of the art world in England – a behemoth that dominated British art. Like many aspects of Victorian society, the art world was stolid and rigid and allowed little room for those who did not go along … Read more

Exploring the Lady of Shalott

Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s narrative poem The Lady of Shalott was a subject that Pre-Raphaelite artists depicted repeatedly. Forbidden from interacting with the world, the lady lives a life of solitude, spending her time weaving elaborate tapestries as events of the world are reflected to her through a mirror. Both Tennyson’s poem and the plethora of … Read more

The Lady of Shalott Poem

The Lady of Shalott Alfred, Lord Tennyson On either side the river lieLong fields of barley and of rye,That clothe the wold and meet the sky;And through the field the road runs by     To many-towered Camelot; And up and down the people go,Gazing where the lilies blow Round an island there below,     The island of Shalott.  Willows whiten, aspens … Read more

A Shakespearean Rabbit Hole

As I shared in The Magic Down the Rabbit Hole, immersing myself in a subject and following its trails is one of the biggest delights of my life. Since today is William Shakespeare’s birthday, I’m jumping headfirst into a few of my favourite Pre-Raphaelite works inspired by The Bard. When listing Pre-Raphaelite images of Shakespeare, … Read more

“Go to nature in all singleness of heart”

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 … Read more

Reading for winter comfort

Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood wombat with books

Today has been cold and grey, the kind of day that makes me want to do nothing other than curl up and read. I’ve been reading A Private Disgrace: Lizzie Borden by Daylight, which I recently scooped up at a library book sale. As I set it aside, I thought about the fact that reading … Read more

What Grows from Grief

William Holman Hunt’s painting Isabella and the Pot of Basil captivates. It’s a painting that is difficult to walk away from when you see it in person; it’s quite large and Isabella looks so very real that she draws you in as you recognize both her exquisite beauty and her melancholy. Today I was thinking about … Read more

The Personification of Love

Today I have been pondering allegories of love in art.  Namely, the choices artists make when representing the concept of Love in physical form.  It is usually male and I assume that the root of this lies in Greek myths of Eros, god of love, or his Roman counterpart, Cupid.  Seen above is Hope Comforting … Read more

Love is Enough

William Morris’ Love is Enough has been on my mind this morning. “He makes a poem these days–in dismal Queen Square in black old filthy London in dull end of October he makes a pretty poem that is to be wondrously happy; and it has four sets of lovers in it and THEY ALL ARE HAPPY … Read more

In which I embrace criticism

Ophelia, Sir John Everett Millais

I’ve seen comments online that say the Pre-Raphaelites mainly appeal to adolescents. Even this 2007 piece from The Guardian quotes a senior curator at Tate Britain saying they’d have complaints from teenage girls if they didn’t show Pre-Raphaelite art. At first I bristled at this, knowing that it is a style of art that appeals … Read more

The Woodman’s Daughter

Sir John Everett Millais’ painting The Woodman’s Daughter is based on a poem by Coventry Patmore.  When first exhibited in 1851, this excerpt of the poem accompanied the work: She went merely to think she help’d; And, whilst he hack’d and saw’d, The rich Squire’s son, a young boy then, Whole mornings, as if awed, … Read more

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. … Read more

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 … Read more

The Diaries of William Allingham

If you’re interested in studying the Victorian era seriously, then diaries and letters are important.  At times I feel like a 21st-century snoop, devouring personal journals and private correspondence whenever I get the chance.  Through contemporary accounts, the past may not always come alive but it shines through the mist more clearly.  The diaries of … Read more

Botanical Paintings: My Top Picks

An  important hallmark of Pre-Raphaelite art is truth to nature. Of course, there are many reasons why the art of the Pre-Raphaelites is so visually striking. Their subject matter often illustrates a compelling narrative, the vibrant hues they used results in a visually arresting effect that commands attention, and who can resist the beauty of … Read more

The Symbolism of Lepidoptera

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 Death’s Head moth in William Holman Hunt’s painting The Hireling Shepherd (above). I’ve blogged about it many times before; it’s part of my Shakespeare post that I share yearly on the … Read more

Embracing Dante Alighieri

“In the middle of the journey of our life, I found myself in a dark wood, for the straight path was lost”  So begins Dante’s journey through Inferno (hell), Purgatorio (purgatory), and Paradiso (paradise).  His travels through these  three areas of the afterlife make up La Divina Commedia, the Divine Comedy.  I came to the … Read more

Searching for Symbolic Windows

Last week I posted Evelyn De Morgan’s Hope in a Prison of Despair (seen above) on the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood Facebook page. A happy byproduct of sharing things on the Pre-Raph Sisterhood Facebook page is that when people comment, like, or share the post, it pops up in my own feed again.  I noticed that the … Read more

Pan, Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Above is a detail from Arthur Rackham’s illustration of Pan from The Wind in the Willows. I first became enchanted by Pan when, as a little girl, I read The Wind in the Willows. I was in love with that book from the moment Mole became fed up with his spring-cleaning, left his hole, and met … Read more

The Eve of St. Agnes

Sir William Richmond, R.A. had this to say about Millais’ painting The Eve of St. Agnes and the innovative nature of Millais’ work:  “Millais’ literary sympathies were with Scott, Thackeray, and Dickens, and lastly, Louis Stevenson.  He loved anecdote and story as well as the literary embodiment of character; but I question if philosophical problem had much … Read more

Images of the Annunciation

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s portrayal of the Annunciation is a continuation of the theme begun in his painting The Girlhood of Mary Virgin. The moment that Mary learns she is to give birth to the Christ child has been depicted in art frequently since the Middle Ages. Rossetti’s Ecce Ancilla Domini is shockingly intimate in comparison. We see … Read more

A #WombatFriday for Poe

Inspired by artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s passion for wombats, every Friday is Wombat Friday at Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood. “The Wombat is a Joy, a Triumph, a Delight, a Madness!” ~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti Edgar Allan Poe died October 7th in 1849, quite soon after the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was formed.  Poe was a huge inspiration for poet … Read more

Exploring Death Through Art

Since the beginning of time, humans have had the need to not only understand concepts of life, death, and love, but to personify them artistically. When we depict life and death in such a way, it is an exploration that does not answer our deepest questions, but helps us to give shape to the unknowable. … Read more

Lady of Shalott: The Imprisoned Artist

The Lady of Shalott, John William Waterhouse

After posting about Evelyn De Morgan’s painting The Gilded Cage, I began to think about other paintings that depict women who are trapped and imprisoned in some way, paintings that prompt me to ponder limitations and boundaries. The Lady of Shalott is perhaps the most obvious example that comes to mind. Based upon the poem … Read more

The Unrequited Love of Dante and Beatrice

Dante Alighieri first saw and fell in love with Beatrice Portinari when he was nine years old. He would later write about his instant love for her in Vita Nuova, saying “Behold, a deity stronger than I; who coming, shall rule over me.” He loved her from afar for the rest of her life. She would die … Read more