Looking Back: What is the first Pre-Raphaelite painting that you fell in love with?

beguiling-merlin-l1.jpgIt is the end of the year, traditionally a time to make merry and look back and reflect upon our lives. In the spirit of yearly reflection, I was struck by the fact that what started as a passing interest in Pre-Raphaelite art years ago has grown into something much larger and more important in my life than I could have ever predicted. My websites (this one and LizzieSiddal.com) are important to me, but what is more important to me is what springs out of those websites: making connections with people. Hearing their comments, their own stories or perceptions of art. Thank you all who have taken time out of your own busy lives to post comments and email me.

The Beguiling of Merlin (pictured here) was the first “Pre-Raphaelite” work that I had ever seen. I was 17 years old in 1992 and was shopping in a bookstore in a local mall. Browsing the shelves, I happened upon A.S. Byatt’s Possession, which featured The Beguiling of Merlin on the cover. The image just struck me. A sort of gut reaction, for lack of a better phrase. I wanted that book without even flipping through it or reading the back cover (rare for me). I remember being nervous asking my mother if I could buy it, because the price was a bit high.

The book turned out to be one of the most important books of my life. I am a gluttonous and greedy reader.  My interests are broad and I literally read anything I can get my hands on without tying myself down to a favorite genre.  There are quite a few books that I consider important parts of my life. Books that I return to again and again like comfort food, rereading them because even though they are familiar and unchanging, they always seem to show me something new.  I discover myself through them.

Possession when read at 17 seemed to make me think several things at once. Or perhaps it made me feel things that I did not know how to name. It was a confusing time in my life. In fact the next few years were what I would call a muddle of bad decisions and upheaval in which I did not realize or meet up to my full potential. But then, I was young. Much younger than I realized and, really, do many of us come through those years unscathed? At any rate, A.S. Byatt’s work marked a transition for me.  It was a change from reading purely for escapism to approaching my reading life as a serious endeavor.  It did not happen overnight with just that one book, but looking back I realize that reading Possession created a subtle shift that changed how I viewed my reading habits and choices.

Possession stayed with me and I returned to it often. It was there at the beginning of marriage and parenthood. It was there during cold winter days or in the summer time heat while my children splashed in their wading pool. Sometimes I would read it all the way through again, happy to be immersed in the tale.  Other times, I would just take a dip into certain passages, allowing them to roll around my head a bit as I savored Byatt’s writing.  And one day, I became curious about the cover art and decided to research its origin. Which led to an interest in the Pre-Raphaelites. Which led to a very specific interest in Rossetti. Who led me to Elizabeth Siddal, whom I devoted years to studying. Which then led me to the lives of other Pre-Raphaelite women and the birth of this website. But perhaps all of this is because the root of my interest in the Pre-Raphaelites may in reality be an interest in people’s stories.

And now I want to hear yours. Do you remember the first painting (Pre-Raphaelite or not) that captivated you? Did it somehow lead you to other things? Or do you relate to a certain painting or artist in some way? I want to know what resonates with you and why. Post a comment!

57 thoughts on “Looking Back: What is the first Pre-Raphaelite painting that you fell in love with?”

  1. One of my first encounters happened by accident. My grandfather had just passed away and my mom and her brother were cleaning up the farm. My uncle found a horse picture in one of the barns and asked my mom if I wanted it, otherwise he was going to throw it away. The horse was the only part visible. There was mud or a dusty film over the rest of the glass. (I LOVE horses and hae been collecting horse related objects for years). So, she brought it home and showed me. It was an old print, with some water damage, of a knight and a horse. It was dated 1917 and a litho from a company in Boston. I tried to do research to find out about the subject matter and the company with no luck (at that time). By the way…this was also when I was working on a book about a knight and strangely, the knight in the print was pretty much how I had envisioned my knight to look like!

    I restored the print as best I could (maybe the frame is worth more!). Anyway, soon after, I was looking through a book on the history of knights and lo and behold…there was my print, only in color and it was then that I found that it was really Sir Galahad, by George Frederick Watts.

    I have been fascinated with pre-Raphaelite works ever since. I have prints all over the house now. John Williams Waterhouse is one of my favorites. I love the emotion in his works.


  2. I’ve just discovered your website and am in heaven!

    Waterhouse’s Ophelia was the first Pre-Raphealite work that took my breath away, and I have been most moved by the art of the Pre-Raphealites since then. I am really looking forward to exploring your site further. Thank you for having it!1 🙂

    Blessings~ Kalliope

  3. For a long time, I’ve been fascinated by 20th Century art, starting as so many do with the Surrealists. Surrealism led to Dada, and studying the 1920s soon brought me to Art Nouveau and the Vienna Seczession – especially Klimt, Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh (by far a more talented artist than her husband) and especially Aubrey Beardsley, the latter striking me on first view due to similarities with my own art. From Beardsley, it is but a short hop to the Arts and Crafts movement.
    One day, while reading a book on that style and period, I came across what remains simply the most beautiful, wonderful and accomplished painting it has ever been my delight to see – Millais’ Bridesmaid (http://www.artchive.com/artchive/m/millais/millais_bridesmaid.jpg). For me, everything about this work is perfection. When I moved to Cambridge in 2003 and discovered it was in the Fitzwilliam Museum, virtually on my doorstep (along with a very fine selection of other Pre-Raphaelites including Rossetti’s Girl at a Lattice, Madox’s Last of England and Cordelia’s Portion) I knew I had found the city I would spend the rest of my life in.

  4. I love your website. I’ve linked and been here before, but never commented. Just wanted you to know that lots of people like your work.

    After the holidays, I’ll give it a big plug with all my friends.

    BTW, Possession is my favorite novel! And I am writing my own YA series with the Pre-Raphaelites.

    Happy Holidays!

  5. Shari:
    What a great story! Do you still have the print?

    Thanks for visiting and posting a comment. I, too, love all of Waterhouse’s Ophelia’s. Waterhouse truly has a way with women–all of his paintings are stunning.

    John Ll-B:
    Aaah, The Bridesmaid. A perfect picture, in my opinion. And I’m envious that you live so close to it and other Pre-Raphaelite works.

    Thanks for commenting! I’ve added you to my blogroll. A YA series featuring the Pre-Rapaelites is a very interesting concept. I wish you well.

    Long live Possession!

    I love visiting A.S. Byatt’s website. And there’s this article (complete with photo) where she talks about where she writes.

  6. I knew nothing of this book until my best friend pulled it off the shelf this past summer, while we were in a used-book store, and told me that she had seen the movie with Gwynneth Paltrow, and that it was wonderful. I’ve yet to see the movie, but I enjoyed the book more than I can say. (The cover alone would have arrested my attention, but my friend was the one who found it.) My husband is still looking for a copy of the movie, but the only “Possession” he has found on the movie torrent sites here in the states is an entirely different story. I’m still hoping to find the right one.

  7. To be honest, I can’t recall the first Pre-Raphaelite painting I ever saw…although it was the Lady of Shallot (and John Waterhouse, specifically) that first drew me into complete addiction 🙂

    There’s just something so magical about the Pre-Raphaelites, and their depiction of women is so rich and suptuous. Your site was a real find for me!

  8. I discovered the pre-Raphaelites quite recently and in an unusual way. Although I am reasonably well-educated in other areas, I am not an artist, nor must I admit have I studied art history extensively. If I had ever heard of the pre-Raphaelites during my education, I had forgotten long ago. When I look at the paintings of the pre-Raphaelites, I must admit it is mostly with an untrained eye.

    About 4-5 months ago, I was listening to classical music while I worked, and I heard a piece that I believe the host of the program referred to as “The Persephone Suite”. For some reason, I felt the impulse to interrupt my work and search for the name “Persephone” on the internet. I already recalled something of Persephone from my cursory knowledge of Greek mythology, but for some inexplicable reason, I decided to google the term, not something I often do while listening to classical music at work.

    This brought me to the wikipedia page on Persephone, where the painting “Proserpine” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti is prominently displayed. I was immediately captivated by this painting in a very intense way, despite my lack of training in art appreciation. The reaction went beyond art appreciation, it was intense in a way that required no real understanding of art whatsoever.

    I must admit that when I saw the caption on the “Proserpine” image in wikipedia, I have no idea if I recognized the name of the artist, perhaps it was very vaguely familiar at best. Even so, I was so drawn in by this image that I felt led to google the artist. When I did so, this quickly led to my discovery of “Beata Beatrix”, a painting that now is without a doubt my favorite. Then I started to research the lives of this fascinating group of people, and I was hooked, with a particular interest in DGR and Lizzie Siddall (I tend to post on the Lizzie site).

    And I must also say that for me, this has opened up a very real gateway helping me to glimpse what it truly means to appreciate art, not to mention appreciating the fascinating lives of these people in history, in a way that is vibrant and alive. I look forward to seeing some of the works of the pre-Raphaelites in person some day, as a book or an image on the internet most certainly cannot capture the full power of their creative genius.


  9. Hope, I love what you wrote, it truly moved me. In fact, I’ve enjoyed all the comments and stories here. What a great idea getting others to share their experiences!

    Stephanie,I love this website and share your passion for the Pre-Raphs.

    I happened upon a personal webpage, probably in 1999. It was one of those geocities sites, put together by someone named Verity. The site was cleverly called “Verity’s Valhalla”….I’ve tried several times and I’ve never been able to find it again. Anyway, she had several Pre-Raphaelite images on her site. It was my first encounter with Pre-Raphaelite art and the images captivated me. I love the works of Leighton, especially Flaming June.

    I think that like many things these days, more and more people discover Pre-Raphaelite art through the internet. So I think that your websites and work online do a great service, Stephanie.

  10. Love all your comments, I found this site after placing Millais painting “Ophelia” on my desktop, this is when I really apprecaite the internet.

    While listening to “The Secret House of Death” by Ruth Rendell I became intrigued first with “The Order of Release” as Rendell bases one of her characters appearance on Effie Gray as she is portrayed in that painting, which led me through Wikipedia to this site.

    I have always enjoyed the pre-raphaelite period in a amateur manner, and I hope to continue for sheer enjoyment. Thanks for this site.

  11. The painting that blew me away and got me hooked on the PreRaphaelites was without doubt Rossetti’s Proserpine. I was collecting a weekly art magazine that featured a different artist every issue. I had gone a good few weeks reading and seeing the paintings of Leonardo, Monet, Courbet, Raphael, Whistler…Then I picked up the issue with Rossetti. The mag had a number of pictures but it’s when I saw the alluring Proserpine that I was hooked. There was just something about that picture. I’d learn much later that a number of copies were painted. Here in the UK there’s a version in the Tate Gallery, London. Another hangs in Birmingham. Andrew Lloyd Webber owns a cut down version, but the finest in my opinion hangs in Manchester. It’s almost ten years ago that I stood spellbound in front of that particular picture. Ten years on and I can still remember it’s quality. I must have walked back to it half a dozen times that day. You can see what Rossetti thought of Jane Morris with every brushstroke…

  12. I was first introduced to the Pre-Raphaelites through a budding love of Loreena McKennitt’s music at around age 13. I discovered Loreena at 13, and at 16 I saw a poster in a gallery of a woman in a boat (Waterhouse’s Lady of Shallot, of course) and brought it home. Now the walls of my home are packed to the gills with Pre-Raphaelite art, but my favorite is still, of course, Waterhouse.

  13. The first pre-raphaelite painting that strucked me was Ophelia, by Millais when I was aroung 15.
    Our french teacher made us study that Rimbaud poem also called Ophelia, and some weird gloomy images of a woman floating came to my mind. I was not really aware of the pre-raphaelite movement, as my parents were more into modern painting and trying to lead me on that same path.
    One day, I don’t remember when exactly, I stumbbled across Ophelia and immediately started feeling weird. You know, like if images and scenes you thought out of mere words were here, represented exactly as you figured it! Than I started stumbbling on maany things “ophelia-like”… Some words in a Jewel song, a Rasputina song called “Dig Ophelia” and then, through a web of knowledge, finally came across and read Hamlet and even saw that Kate Winslet, the most pre-raphaelite actress of our time (and my favorite actress since 11 years now) had played her ! I was completly going crazy and started looking for books about this movement. There were not so many where I lived. But now I own a cool huge Phaidon book about Waterhouse, my favorite.

    Another day, in my second-hand bookstore, I fell upon “Autumn” written by a french author Philippe Delerm. It tells all the story around Elisabeth Siddal and how she had to pose in baths to be drawn as Ophelia, her beauty, Alice Liddel, Millais, Fanny Cornforth and Jane Morris. Don’t know if there’s any translation in english or esle of that cool book.

    I’ve seen the movie Possession and own it as a DVd. I’ll read the book !!

    All this to say it started as a simple obssession and then spread through references and different medias. Through Loreena McKennitt’s Lady of Shalott to the actual Waterhouse’s painting then to the poem. I love this whole web of pre-raphaelite interactions! And it won’t stop !:P

  14. Being from the UK, and living (as a child) near Manchester I must have seen loads of pre-raphs in posters and adverts and the like, but my first recollection of seeing a Pre-Raph painting and realising what it was – was a version of La Donna Della Finestra – one of Rosetti’s pictures of Janey Morris – and I loved it. I took a postcard away to Uni with me. My sister always said our family had ‘Pre-raphaelite hands’ and I have got that sort of fine/thick kinky victorian-esque hair so it was kinda like meeting relations …

    Wish Rosetti had let his wife and sister stick to the poetry instead of him … love his paintings – but how could he bear to put pen to paper with Christina in the family …

  15. The first real discovery was William Morris who was such an inspiration artistically and politically. Dante Gabriel Rossetti was the next and then everything
    followed,Ruskin,Hunt,Burne Jones and of course the women. I have been lucky enough to visit some of the houses and exhibitions over the years and to see the paintings and craftwork is so much more wonderful than lovely prints in books. There is going to be a Waterhouse Exhibition at the Royal Academy London this year and I am very excited about that. Also reading a new book Desperate Romantics by Franny Moyle.

  16. have just finished reading Desperate Romantics by Franny Moyle. I found out a few things I did not know about the P.R.B. and the way they used women not just as models ! It is a good read ,there are a few typo errors and use of words like “grotty” jarred a bit. I did enjoy it though.There is going to be a T.V.series sometime this year based on this book,could be fun!The casting will be interesting.

  17. Traveling through Wilmington, Deleware back in the early 1990’s (on my way to a business conference in Northeast Maryland), I stopped off for lunch and wandered into one of the city centre hotels to use the loo. In their lobby, was a poster on an easel, announcing the traveling exhibition at Deleware Art Museum of the PRB’s. Staring at the stunning art on the poster, intrigued me to way-lay my journey a bit longer and venture over to the museum and check it out. I was forever hooked.

  18. I was in my college library when I happened upon Rossetti’s “Annunciation” (this would have been around 1970). I remember thinking that this was how the annunciation would truly have been: Mary (Christina) initially shrinking away in fear from the angel Gabriel. I think I had seen a print of Millais’ “Ophelia” a year or two before. I felt rather than saw a similarity, but at the time had never heard of the PRB. Shortly after seeing the “annunciation”, I found a book called “Victorian Narrative Paintings” that included some PRB works.
    Ever since then, I have been something of an amateur (very amateur) Pre-Raphaelite scholar.

  19. My first even encounter with the Pre-Raphaelites came at the aged 12 years when I was forced by my school teacher to learn and then recite word for word without reading from the book a poem. We were free to choose ourselves and being an rather unusual little girl even back then I chose “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” by John Keats and still love that poem today.
    This led me into discovering the painting not by Waterhouse but by Sir Frank Dicksee first which I loved and wanted to know more about,I haunted the library’s for books there were not the wonderful resources of computers back then and in turn discovered the Pre-Raphaelites.

  20. HooRay! I finally have found the word to describe my favorite era of art history; “Pre-raphaelites”. All throughout my art history classes, this section was skipped over by many professors. I’ve alway bookmarked images of these women, but never knew where to group them. With the subtle tones of Mannerism, but the subject matter that touches my soul, I can finally focus on a style of art that fits my heart. Thanks…

  21. My first one was Ophelia by Millais. I was studying Hamlet at high school, and Ophelia appealed to my dramatic teenage self. A friend bought me a print of Ophelia for my birthday that year.

  22. I think that Ophelia is a draw for many people, especially girls. Cynics may say that’s cliche, but I think it’s wonderful! During those angst-y years, isn’t it a positive thing that we have tragic characters like Ophelia to help release our own sorrows? That being said, I’m far from my teenage years and I adore Ophelia.

  23. I have to say it wasn’t a painting but a person that introduced me initially to the PRB. My art teacher when I was about 14/15 commented upon my use of pattern and colour in something I was working on, and said that I should visit the Victoria and Albert Museum, London to view the William Morris rooms as she thought I’d like them. The first painting from then that had a big impact on me was Waterhouse’s Miranda – the Tempest, which I have a print of today.

    I’d like to think in a small way that it was these things that eventually led to me studying to be an Art Historian many, many years later! My favourite amongst them is Millais, an exhibition of which I saw in London in 2007, and I’ve also seen a lot of Lloyd-Webber’s collection when exhibited, I think back in 2003/2004. I too, love A.S Byatt’s Possession!

  24. I actually fell in love with the Pre-Raphaelites when I watched ‘The Love School’ in 197?. Up until then I had no idea who they were but since then I have ate, slept and lived Pre-Raphaelite and have a vast library due to them. I also discovered that I was living opposite to Merton Abbey where William Morris had his factory which only fuelled the fire! Discovering this Facebook page has been great, to know and ‘talk’ to others with similar passions has been really good.

  25. My first PRB painting that I loved was Waterhouse’s Lady of Shalott, I had read the poem and then saw the painting and adored her face. I posted about a Pre-Raphaelite painting by Rossetti on my blog today, there is a poem about it by Fleur Adcock which is stunning http://mermaidsdrown.blogspot.com

  26. For me, Rossetti’s poems introduced me to the PRB’s, followed by an art appreciation course in college. I have yet to see any of the art works I don’t love..

  27. My dad is an English professor and when I was a senior high school had bought a Pre-Raphaelite calendar to show students some of the characters from literature. The cover was Waterhouses’s Ophelia with the blue dress. I wanted that dress ever since. I drew pastel copies of several of the Waterhouse paintings that were exhibited in a student show. I kept the calendar and later got a couple of posters for my room. Then I went on to read everything I could find in college and make my own little Pre-Raphaelite web site, and illustrated Goblin Market for my graduation project.

  28. Gosh I can name several and it was back in the day when we put posters up, early seventies. King Cophetua and the Beggar Girl (Burne-Jones) was one, Hylas and the Nymphs (Waterhouse) another and April Love (Arthur Hughes). I know none of the artists was in the original Brotherhood but what caught my attention was that in their own way they were sooooo [19]70

  29. ‘s (oops) I would have worn the beggar maid’s dress in a heartbeat; done my make up to mimic those nymphs and was frequently feeling lovelorn like the lovely lady in April Love (it wasn’t until I saw the original that I realised there was a fella in the shadows, head in hand in despair…) Oh and please don’t forget The Death of Chatterton (aie aie aie) the young poet in the attic who committed suicide. They all echo how I felt around that time.

  30. I don’t remember exactly whether it was Millais’ Ophelia or Rossetti’s The Beloved but because Rossetti is my most favourite Pre-Raphaelite painter I’ll go with The Beloved (http://www.artrenewal.org/artwork/076/76/583/the_beloved-large.jpg). I’ve seen in the book called Romanticism (Taschen) – though it was very small, only a few centimetres squared, I immediately knew I’ve fell in love. The woman has such a ………………… (I cannot find the word!) look in the eyes I always feel she has something to tell me and that she is me portrayed. Basically, she captures what I am. Two years of so after I’ve seen the painting for the first time, I’ve written a poem. It is my most favourite out of all poems I’ve ever written. It forms a bridge between my personality and what the canvas has to offer – a bridge between the real life and an art. My preferences and tastes change a lot but I still love The Beloved. One of my dreams is to see it live in Tate Britain which hopefully will come true this autumn. Lately, I’ve also made an important decision – I want a tattoo depicting the woman from the paiting. So that is my story 🙂

  31. Could I answer “dozens of paintings, all at once?”

    I’ve always been interested in photography, and back in the 1970s, model (now actress) Carol Kane was getting some attention in photo magazines for her Pre-Raph looks. At the time I wasn’t sure who the Pre-Raphaelites were, but at some point I looked into them. In 1984, my first trip to London coincided with the largest Pre-Raphaelite exhibit ever held, at the Tate. So I visited on the first full day of my trip and the last day as well. Can one get “high” from seeing so many Pre-Raphaelite paintings? I think so.

  32. My introduction to the Pre-Raphaelites was through seeing the miniseries Lillie when I was 14, and that whole thing with Millais and Leighton and Poynter all wanting to paint her portrait, when they meet her at her first London soiree. Millais’ portrait of her, and his later use of her in his painting Effie Deans, are really the first knowledge I had of the painters of that period. There was a wonderful scene in which she’s posing for her portrait for him and he comes up with the idea of her holding a Jersey lily.

    By the time I went to the UK for the first time in 1984, that was the one painting I hoped to see, but alas, that was not to be. I did however discover Holman Hunt’s The Bride of Bethlehem which hung in the Fitwilliam Museum in Cambridge on their rather narrow balcony gallery. The narrowness of the balcony meant that one had to view the painting somewhat closely, so I really got a sense of the Pre-Raphaelite use of color. At that point I was hooked and began reading everything I could find on them, which mostly consisted, at that point, of Andrea Rose’s excellent book.

    Since then I have come to love many of the paintings, although Rossetti’s Beloved is probably my absolute favorite of them all. The colors and the different expressions on each woman’s face enthralls me. I still to this day have never seen Millais’ portrait of Lillie Langtry close up. I hope someday I shall.

    • Is the miniseries Lillie the one starring Francesca Annis? I have never seen it, but have always wanted to. (I adore Francesca Annis and James Warwick as Tommy and Tuppence in the Agatha Christie adaptation)

  33. My first PRB painting to make a huge impression on me was Leighton’s “Flaming June”. I first saw it when I was going through chemotherapy and the calmness and peacefulness of the woman stuck me, as that is how i wanted to feel….i have since hung a print of it in my bedroom and find it is a great visual to start my day…keep calm and carry on!

  34. Oh i am so glad other people have a love for these great paintings!

    I was about 7 years old and my mother had bought a picture from junk store, it was a woman with red hair, and she had wrapped it around the neck of a knight. I fell in love with it. It wasnt until 10 years later, when i was studying “Romeo and Juliet” at school, I stumbled across John William Waterhouse’s painting of Juliet. I then saw “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”, the painting my mother had bought from a junk store!! I have had a love affair with Pre-Raphaelite paintings ever since. They are so romantic, and just beautiful. Real art, art you can understand.

  35. There were so many for me.. I almost forgot the death of Chatterton, which carries a feeling that seems to mimic my own life. His flaming red hair and the bottle were so real and close even though it was about a poet who committed suicide in the 18th century. It still seemed so fresh to me…. Beata Beatrix has always haunted me too, as I wonder myself what that fragile moment between life and death will be like when it does come. Also Rosetti’s Dante’s Dream at the time of the death of Beatrice really spoke to me. It’s hard to remember what the first painting that I ever saw from them actually was, but these are a few that really spoke to me….

  36. The first Pre-Raphaelite painting I saw was The Accolade by Edmund Blair Leighton, on the cover of a cd case when I was about 14. The lush medieval beauty and chivalry captured me and I have never loved any other form of art better.

  37. I don’t honestly remember when I first saw my first pre-Raphaelite painting; I remember being in an interminable art history lecture in art school and the professor was going on about Rossetti’s Beata Beatrix, which is honestly probably my least favorite Rossetti as I find the colors just muddy and awful! I much prefer the later Titian-inspired jewel-like glazes, Gods those are just gorgeous.

    I know I had seen plenty of pre-Raphaelite art before that, like in this book series we have on fairy tales, but I’d never put it together I guess. Now my favorites among the pre-Raphaelites or their ilk are Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale and Burne-Jones, though more for his composition, which are these crazy archetypal stage sets (in some of the woodcuts for Morte d’Arthur the people couldn’t stand up, the ceiling is so low) than his use of color.

    I was visiting the Tate once years ago and turned a corner and ran smack into Richard Dadd’s Bacchanalia Scene. That one changed my life, I think. Unbelievable, that painting. Mad and detailed and rich and unconscious and powerful.

    Also, drat but I’m Rusty Jones here! That avatar follows me around to the weirdest places.

  38. It was Rossetti’s final painting that caught my eye, my uncle has a huge print above his mantelpiece of ‘The Day Dream’ and even when I was too young to think about who had painted it, I always remember being drawn to it and wondering why she was in the tree and what she was so pensive about. It is still one of my favourite Pre-raphaelite paintings.

    I saw it recently in the V&A exhibition ‘The Cult of Beauty’ and it was featured right at the end when you think its all nearly over and it blew me away, it was so majestic and the colours were so vivid. It was also the first time I had read the poem inscribed on the frame:

    “The thronged boughs of the shadowy sycamore
    Still bear young leaflets half the summer through;
    From when the robin ‘gainst the unhidden blue
    Perched dark, till now, deep in the leafy core,
    The embowered throstle’s urgent wood-notes soar
    Through summer-silence. Still the leaves come new;
    Yet never rosy-sheaved as those which drew
    Their spiral tongues from spring-buds heretofore.

    Within the branching shade of Reverie
    Dreams even may spring till autumn; yet none be
    Like woman’s budding day-dream spirit-fann’d.
    Lo! tow’rd deep skies, not deeper than her look,
    She dreams; till now her forgotten book
    Drops the forgotten blossom from her hand.”

    Just lovely.

  39. The painting that haunted me for years is Lady Macbeth by John Sargent. The morbid bright colours of Ellen Terry’s dress, the “golden ring”, together with her maenad’s fierce look would visit me at night and still do from time to time!

  40. I was very fortunate as a child- to have an artistic Aunt who introduced me to pre raphaelite art as a way of ensuring I was positive about being a red head. This lay present but dormant for many years until it was reawakened by my husband who shares this passion. We are fortunate to have so many amazing pre raphaelite works on our doorstep at BMAG. My personal favourite is now Beata Beatrix for quite sentimental reasons wanting to beleive Rossettis remorse and grief for Lizzi I think the first I remember was probably Proserpine, it was definately the Birmingham red haired one though!

  41. I was completely enraptured by Frederick Sandys Morgan le Fay as a teen. I loved the pre-raph rooms in Birmingham Art Gallery but Morgan was my favourite. Last of England by Ford Maddox Brown haunted me. As I grew up, I fell for Rossetti’s gorgeous women, especially Proserpine x

  42. Like others have said, there are so many I admire, but the first one to enchant me was Millais’ Ophelia – I could hardly take my eyes off of it when I first saw it and even to this day, I find it mesmerising.

    Richard Dadd’s ‘The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke’ haunts me too and the more I stare at the print I have of it on the wall, the more lost inside it I become. Fascinating!

  43. I was reading your comments on the new PRB book and felt like i needed to say that we have to remember that truth is seldom found in historical facts. There are many things curiously misisng from these stories that tell a tale all of themselves. There are people alive today who know some of the secrets ‘misisng” from the stories about the PRB and their model, but they are not filling in the blanks. Yet. There is one glaring omission that it is surprising, really, that no one has figure out yet with regards to one very important biography……….more than one……but there are reasons for the silence.
    The entire story woudl change and many people woudl be perturbed.

    No one has ownership over these stories except for the people, themselves.

  44. Hi Stephanie
    I just came across your website while browsing & your question’s intrigued me. I think the first for me was probably Henry Wallis’ ‘The death of Chatterton’ which I came to as a teenager from a love of poetry, particularly the Romantics & especially Keats. (Beat a line such as this to Sleep – ‘Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
    And seal the hushed Casket of my Soul’). I wondered who Chatterton was as Keats wrote a poem about him & dedicated another to him, and in researching (going to the library – this was the 1970s!) found this painting and fell in love with 19th century visual art also. Used to work near Manchester city art gallery at one stage & could wander in at lunchtime for free to see lots of Rosetti, etc. Other joys have included seeing Serjent’s ‘Carnation Lily Lily Rose’ at the Tate and my delight at the way the little birds (swifts or swallows?) in Waterhouse’s ‘Lady of Shallot’ leap out of the canvass on the original. Lately I’ve become more & more in love with Evelyn de Morgan’s paintings & when I took my daughter to Bournemouth uni for an interview recently, managed a trip to the Russell Coates art gallery where her ‘Aurora Triumphans’ is exhibited – a real joy to have seen that!
    Enjoy your further discoveries!

  45. Dantes Dream – seeing it at the Walker Art Gallery was amazing, took my breath away. I’ve had the print up on my wall for years and can’t wait to go back and see it in the flesh 🙂

  46. I too have always been affected by Burne-Jones ‘the beguiling of Merlin’. I became aware of it when I developed a fascination with Arthurian legend in my twenties, and particularly the archetypal figure of Merlin. I was drawn again and again to images of that painting. One day, I was reading book about Merlin (I think it was Nikolai Tolstoy’s), which had the Burne-Jones painting reproduced in it, and decided to have a look at the back of the book where the location of the paintings were listed. To my amazement, I saw the the painting was located in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, based about half a mile away from my childhood home – I had spent the first 18 years of my life living right next to that painting! (I wasn’t interested in Art at that age, so had never really looked round the gallery in my childhood).

    Nowadays I live in West Wales, which is the traditional location of the mythical Merlin (there is rather less evidence for his existence than Arthur’s, who was almost certainly a Dark Ages Romano-British war leader, but Merlin is most strongly associated with this part of Britain). He is linked with the town of Carmarthen (or in Welsh, “Caer Myrddin” – Merlin’s fortress), I live about 20 miles away from there (just opposite Cardigan Castle, where the first ever Eisteddfod was held for poets and musicians in 1176). It’s one of the nice things about living in Britain, history, myths, and magic are all around you, if you have eyes to see!

  47. The first Pre: Raphaelite painting that took my breath away was Rossettis “Lady Lilith” /with Alexa Wilding as the model) and it was on the cover of one of the books we were using in school. The other one is a Waterhouse, “The Lady of Shalott”. I wrote my bachelor thesis on the poem (amongst other victorian poetry) and it’s so vitally linked to the painting that I feel that they in some way are the same. I feel her pain and strength and I love her. I adore the Pre: Raphaelites and one of the reasons is that it’s as the most amazing litterature, have gotten the most beautiful illustrations. With that said, the artwork of course stand for itself in it’s own right. Thank you for an amazing website and all of your passion.


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