Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Some people travel for concerts and musicals (which I have certainly done before) but I travel for Art exhibits. Last year my husband indulged me in a 5 hour drive to St. Louis just for that purpose. We had the great fortune of seeing Waking Dreams: The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites from the Delaware Art Museum at the wonderful St. Louis Museum of Art. This is one of my favorite periods in art and since I missed the traveling exhibit in Cincinnati, due to being in my third trimester of pregnancy with my daughter, I knew I could not pass up the chance again to see so many Rossetti’s in person. I must say that for those who have not seen a Rossetti, please do not pass up an opportunity to see one should an exhibit come near you. His paintings are truly hypnotic.

My favorite Rossetti painting was not in this particular exhibit but I have a reproduction of the painting in my parlor (which you can see in the last photo). It is called A Sea Spell. Rossetti also wrote a haunting poem to accompany the painting:

Her lute hangs shadowed in the apple-tree,
While flashing fingers weave the sweet-strung spell
Between its chords; and as the wild notes swell,
The sea-bird for those branches leaves the sea.
But to what sound her listening ear stoops she?
What netherworld gulf-whispers doth she hear,
In answering echoes from what planisphere,
Along the wind, along the estuary?
She sinks into her spell: and when full soon
Her lips move and she soars into her song,
What creatures of the midmost main shall throng
In furrowed self-clouds to the summoning rune,
Till he, the fated mariner, hears her cry,
And up her rock, bare breasted, comes to die?

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The model for A Sea Spell was one of DGR’s favorites, Alexa Wilding. Rossetti used Wilding as his model from 1865 onwards. The two became loyal friends, but their relationship was never believed to have been much more than platonic. Alexa was a strikingly beautiful woman who possessed that essential ethereal beauty so coveted by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. She is my favorite of all the Pre-Raphaelite models.

A perfect description of the Pre-Raphaelites is provided from the Delaware Art Museum and I’ve included that below. This museum has the esteemed honor of housing the greatest collection of Pre-Raphaelite Art outside of Great Britain.

In 1848 a group of seven young British artists and writers gathered together to pioneer a new movement in contemporary art-a move away from the established London art institutions of the day. The group consisted of artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and James Collins; sculptor Thomas Woolner; and writers William Michael Rossetti

Drawing influence from art created before the time of the Renaissance artist Raphael, they intended to paint directly from nature in an honest manner that rejected the painterly brushwork and contrived compositions in vogue at the Royal Academy. Bright, jewel-like color and close attention to detail, modes typical of early Italian art, featured prominently in their work.

The founding members of this "Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood" were very much concerned with the modern world in which they lived, specifically with the social problems brought about by the Industrial Revolution and the rapid urban growth that ensued. Their choice of subjects reflects these concerns and often showed a particular compassion for the "fallen woman," or prostitute.

The young painters gained the support of eminent art critic John Ruskin, who staunchly defended their endeavors in two landmark letters published in the London Times. Although the official Brotherhood lasted only a few years, its work and objectives influenced a second generation of English painters and artisans, including Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris, which persisted through the early twentieth century.


willow said...

Pretty! Is this your place in the photo? I love that shade of red. I painted our entryway that same shade a few years back. It was a little scary with the first few rollers full of that rich paint...I thought...oh no, what have I done...this looks like a Mexican restaurant. But when it was finished, dried and pix hung, I absolutely loved it.

Rebecca said...

Yes, this is my parlor. I know exactly what you mean about the panic when choosing red walls. I was so afraid it would look like a bordello! LOL!! I was so pleased with how it turned out, though. My husband measured and applied the gold fleur -de- lys just under the crown molding. Our bedroom is presently red as well but I may change that next year.

willow said...

I like it so much that I also painted our kitchen half bath the same red. Our family room needs to be painted again and I was toying with the idea of red for that, too. Maybe too much? But it is stunning and framed prints look so nice on red, don't they?

Rebecca said...

Willow, I think it's stunning as well and very dramatic so I would be also be tempted to paint the family room red :-)I definitely agree about framed prints against a red background, too.

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

You are right about the positioning of the hands; very graceful. He portrayed each model at her most beautiful and feminine.

Rebecca said...

Rossetti had quite a colorful romantic life and I think that comes through in the rendering of women in his paintings, above all other Pre-Raphaelites.

Blog Princess G said...

Oh! I should have read this post first... hee hee.

I love the tale of Rossetti's love affair with Janey Morris, William Morris's wife. Morris stood by patiently as she nursed Rossetti through his final illness. I love his paintings of her, especially Proserpine, holding that wonderful pomegranate - so sensual and so of his style.