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

On Suicide

Friends sometimes say it’s strange that I can simultaneously be optimistic and bubbly while also being captivated by art filled with melancholy and death.  I’m not sure how to answer except to say that I consciously choose to embrace life to the fullest and believe that my positive mindset is one of my strengths.  But I’ve also encountered death, pain, and trials in my life that have helped me understand how fleeting it is.  I want to experience it … Read more

Elizabeth Siddal and Sylvia Plath are not your Suicide Girls

Saturday was the anniversary of Elizabeth Siddal’s death in 1862 and Sylvia Plath’s suicide in 1963. Both poets garner a lot of attention when February eleventh rolls around, and rightly so, because their lives and their work are important and should never be forgotten. Both poets have touched my life and I find it heartwarming … 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

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 … 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

Lizzie Siddal: Love and Hate

Ophelia, Sir John Everett Millais

Many people hear about Elizabeth Siddal through dramatic anecdotes of her life, such as the serious illness she suffered as a result of  posing in a bathtub for Sir John Everett Millais’ Ophelia (above). In 1860 she married artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti and died a mere two years later of a laudanum overdose.  The fact … Read more

What shapes our perception of Elizabeth Siddal?

Photograph of Elizabeth Siddal

 For those of us who admire Pre-Raphaelite art, Elizabeth Siddal is a familiar face.  Her story is repeated often and frequently embellished.  When beginning to research the life of Elizabeth Siddal, readers will invariably encounter this description of her written by poet William Allingham in his diary: “Short, sad, and strange her life; it must … Read more

Did Elizabeth Siddal inspire Bram Stoker?

Photograph of Elizabeth Siddal

In the early years of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, artist Walter Deverell discovered Elizabeth Siddal working in a millinery shop.  After modeling for his painting Twelfth Night, Siddal posed for several Pre-Raphaelite painters, including William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. It was the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti who was most captivated by her. He drew … Read more

Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the Supernatural

Pre-Raphaelites sought fidelity to nature in their works, recreating the natural world with painstaking attention to detail. They did not, however, limit themselves to realistic subjects. Their paintings often placed supernatural or fantasy subjects from mythology and literature into realistic settings. Such depictions with their vivid hues and photographic realism resulted in works that were … Read more

Millais drawing of Charles Dickens after death

Upon the death of Charles Dickens in 1870, the artist John Everett Millais traveled to Gad’s Hill Place to make a sketch of the novelist in state.   In The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais, the artist’s son states that while he only intended to make a slight outline drawing, he was overcome … Read more

Art is a Mirror

Meteyard, Lady of Shalott

 When I was fifteen years old, my father taught me how to drive. I was eager, yet scared, and Dad wanted to give me ample opportunity to practice, so we drove together often. He’d pick a destination and I would drive while he critiqued and instructed me. Luckily, he is both an extremely patient man and … Read more

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

This week marks the anniversary of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s death in 1882.  A founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Rossetti’s works capture his unique view of beauty.  His paintings of women during the latter stage of his life are often criticized for their unusual physical attributions: elongated necks, cupid bow lips, and  languid gazes.  And, of … Read more

Dim Phantoms

Elizabeth Siddal, drawn by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

On this day in 1862, Elizabeth Siddal died.  In many accounts of her, you will see her death described as suicide.  Whether intentional or not, she lost her life due to an overdose of Laudanum.   You can read a transcript of the inquest here. The hills grow darker to my sight And thoughts begin … Read more

Pyramus and Thisbe

The tale of Thisbe comes from book four of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In ancient Babylon, the families of Pyramus and Thisbe live in separate houses that share a roof. Over time, the two youths fall in love but are forbidden by their parents to see each other. Undaunted, the lovers use a crack in the wall … Read more

Millais’ Ghostly Apparition

When it comes to ghost stories, the Victorians were absolutely the best. It was an era that birthed Industrialism and scientific discovery, yet people held firmly to superstition and folklore. Death closely hovered around every family, regardless of wealth or class. Mourning was so common that there were societal rules about it that were to … Read more

Katabasis

After my recent post on Dante’s Divine Comedy, I’ve been thinking about metaphorical descents into the Underworld.  The rather beautiful Greek word for descent is katabasis, usually used to describe a hero’s journey into the underworld on a quest of some sort.  It’s a journey seen in not only a  variety of myths, but multiple … Read more

Poppies: Sleep, Death, Remembrance

The Tower of London is marking the centenary of World War I with a breathtaking art installation called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red by artist Paul Cummins. The installation will include total of 888,246 ceramic poppies, each flower representing a British military fatality from WWI.   The tradition of using poppies for remembrance of those … Read more

Don’t look back!

Orpheus was given his lyre by the god Apollo and it was the Muses that taught him how to play.  His gift for music enchanted all living things: wild beasts, trees and even stones.  After his journeys with the Argonauts, Orpheus married his love Eurydice.  When Eurydice died from a snake bite, grief-stricken Orpheus felt … Read more

Ulalume

As I mentioned in Rossetti and the art of death, Edgar Allan Poe was a great influence on DGR’s work. The Raven is a prime example of Poe’s poetry influencing Rossetti’s.  It was a catalyst for The Blessed Damozel, where Rossetti reversed the conditions of The Raven in order to tell the story from the deceased lover’s … Read more

Rossetti and the art of death

“It is a subject from an old story of mine — a woman dying while her lover is painting her portrait”  (Dante Gabriel Rossetti) This is a story of beauty, art, and death. The study for Bonifazio’s mistress captures a scene from Rossetti’s story St. Agnes of Intercession.  It was intended to be published in … Read more

Love, Death and Potted Plants

William Holman Hunt’s Isabella and the Pot of Basil is currently in the news with the recent announcement that the Delaware Art museum will be auctioning the painting tomorrow.  The work has been in their collection since 1947 and it is sad news indeed that the Delaware has to sell it and three other works … Read more