The fa­mous son

ImagineFX - - Imagine Fx Legend -

One of the most cel­e­brated Pre-Raphaelites was born a year af­ter the cre­ation of the Brother­hood With crowds of art fans por­ing over the master­pieces on ev­ery wall of the Pre-Raphaelite rooms in Tate Bri­tain, chances are you’ll have to wait to get a good look at John Wil­liam Water­house’s The Lady of Shal­lot. Its post­card is one of the mu­seum’s bestsellers, but there’s noth­ing like the 200x246cm paint­ing.

In­spir­ing artists for more than a century, in­clud­ing this is­sue’s cover artist Cor­rado Vanelli, Water­house was born a year af­ter Hunt, Mil­lais and Ros­setti founded the Brother­hood. And yet he has come to epit­o­mise the move­ment that he helped re­vi­talise. Water­house’s art is filled with mag­netic, tragic and beau­ti­ful women. Tak­ing fa­mil­iar Pre-Raphaelite themes from po­ems and leg­end – he cre­ated his own Ophelia in 1888 – stylis­ti­cally Water­house was any­thing but a Pre-Raphaelite poster boy. Gone is the photo-real­is­tic at­ten­tion to fauna and flora, re­placed by a looser brush­stroke and more blocks of colour on the can­vas.

The Brother­hood had slipped in and out of fash­ion by the time Water­house was ex­hibit­ing. Yet his psy­cho­log­i­cally charged art from lit­er­a­ture and Greek mythol­ogy re­mained pop­u­lar un­til the 20th century brought new trends and tastes.

Pre-Raphaelites painted women, all spring­ing from a real-life mix­ture of doomed de­sire and dis­as­ter.

The muses

Un­like its bright colours, the story be­hind Mil­lais’ paint­ing Is­abella is a lot darker. While Is­abella’s broth­ers crack nuts at the din­ing ta­ble, her lover Lorenzo stares at her, re­veal­ing their se­cret love. Unim­pressed, the broth­ers con­spire to kill Lorenzo, bury­ing him in a nearby for­est. When Is­abella is vis­ited by a ghost that takes her to Lorenzo’s grave, the lovers are re­united, but only once she digs up his body. The tale has a chill­ing echo in one of the Pre-Raphaelite’s life.

Ros­setti prob­a­bly met Lizzie Sid­dal in 1849. She be­came his muse, modelling for hun­dreds of his sketches. A poet and artist her­self, she fea­tured in pieces by all the PRB, be­com­ing im­mor­talised in Mil­lais’s Ophelia – fa­mously catch­ing a cold as she lay in a

Lizzie fa­mously caught a cold as she lay in a bath­tub that an en­grossed Mil­lais had for­got­ten to keep warm…

bath­tub that an en­grossed Mil­lais had for­got­ten to keep warm with fresh can­dles.

In 1860 Ros­setti and Sid­dal were mar­ried. But within two years she was dead from an over­dose of lau­danum, an opi­ate she’d been tak­ing for post-natal de­pres­sion. Hav­ing viewed her face for so long in life, Ros­setti laid Lizzie’s corpse out for seven days to study her for a fi­nal time. He then buried her with the only copy of his com­plete po­etry, en­twined in her long red hair. Seven years later, he had her cof­fin dug up to re­trieve his writ­ings. His eerie paint­ing Beata Beatrix (above), which he started the year af­ter her death, is an ode to Sid­dal that was fi­nally fin­ished in 1870.

Tragedy does well in art. Col­lec­tors love a story be­hind an im­age, and money fol­lows trends. Such is the case with Ros­setti’s Pan­dora, es­ti­mated to auc­tion for £7 mil­lion this year. But the PRB’s self­as­sured call to arms, and its brief yet bright life is hard to re­sist for artists, too. At its core, it was an art move­ment con­ceived by artists, backed up by the great­est art critic of the time. They may be more pop­u­lar than ever with a fresh run of high-pro­file ex­hi­bi­tions at Lon­don’s Tate Bri­tain and New York’s Met­ro­pol­i­tan Mu­seum of Art in re­cent years, but it’s the sim­ple ado­ra­tion of na­ture and women, and their pas­sion for de­pict­ing a good story that as­sures their legacy.

The lady of Shalott (1888) In­spired by Ten­nyson’s Arthurian bal­lad, this is one of three paint­ings on the sub­ject.

The Awak­en­ing Con­science Hunt’s 1853 paint­ing shows a ‘kept’ woman re­mem­ber­ing her lost in­no­cence as she stares out into a gar­den.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.