Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Great Works of Art for Troubled Times

"People like you and me have to work even harder to create the best art...that we possibly can. And the rest, the children, the country kitchen, the domestic bliss, we leave to others who will have different regrets." --Wendy Wasserstein, The Sisters Rosensweig

We are all living in a really tough time right now. The economy is in trouble, unemployment is rising, and more and more people are looking at ways to cut corners and live on a smaller budget. Here at The Beautiful Necessity, I've tried to create a small sanctuary of beauty, a place to pause and admire those things which are both priceless and free...great works of art...without the outside world intruding too much.

But I cannot help but think of how very applicable to our troubled times William Morris' life and philosophy truly are. The other day, while perusing a file of images I have stored on my computer to share here at the blog, I came across an image from a biography of Morris. The sketch shows a design for a small country cottage decorating scheme William Morris created. (click above to see in detail) I will quote the book the image comes from:

"Morris's second attempt to provide inexpensive ideas for furnishings came with the design of 'a model workman's small house' displayed in the newly opened Art Gallery in Queen's Park, Manchester, in 1884. This was commission by Thomas Coglan Horsfall, a Manchester philanthropist for whom Morris had visited Manchester in February 1879 to speak on 'Working Folk and the Future of Art,' a lecture in which he expounded his now famous advice '...do not have anything in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful'. At first Morris was very unhappy about Horsfall's proposals for displays in the newly opened museum, believing that 'what furniture a workman can buy should be exactly the same (if his room be large enough) as a lord buys'. However, he was persuaded and the room he designed included chairs from the Sussex range, a Madox Brown designed wash-stand and numerous wallpapers and chintzes."

I recently watched a British show on decorating with pattern, and the host observed that the reason why the Victorians chose such large-patterned wallpapers and home textiles was because the homes themselves were larger at the time. The host went on to further say that this is why most companies now reproduce these patterns in smaller formats, for the smaller homes we live in now. And granted, in the above image, William Morris chose one of his smallest, simplest patterns for this small country home plan, but his concept of beauty being accessible to people of all classes is aptly remembered. In fact, perhaps one of the biggest tragedies of Morris' life is that even though he accomplished more than ten men could in his lifetime, he never was able to make the beautifully crafted works of art affordable for the working classes, as he desired.

“In 1876, a wealthy industrialist whose house Morris's company was redecorating asked him why he was pacing up and down and muttering to himself. Morris replied "It's only that I spend my life in ministering to the swinish luxury of the rich."

William Morris understood that sometimes the harder life is, the more important it is to have something beautiful to hold on to. I read another article online the other day that marveled at how during this time of recession and economic trouble, handicrafts are enjoying quite a revival. I believe that this is not only because people feel the practical need to create things more affordably, but also because the process of creation is soothing, and also the idea of purchasing, giving, and owning items that were created by someone else's hands creates a link between us that we need during such a difficult time. Beauty is universal.

And boy do we need beauty now.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

William Morris tiles

Inspired by Morris' Pimpernel design:I know, Mucha isn't Pre-Raphaelite, but this is a beautiful pin you can purchase on the site.
4x4 tile of a Strawberry Thief-inspired bird.

Lately I've been on a serious home decorating/nesting kick, and one thing I've been pondering is inexpensive ways to inject more direct influence of William Morris into my home. One of the things I've recently considered is tiles...such an important product for Morris & Co. Edward Burne-Jones especially created so many gorgeous artworks on tile.

One modern artist whose work I really admire is Verdant Tile Co./Mary Philpott. Her tiles are absolutely beautiful, and I love the glazed, deep colors she uses, so reminiscent of the Arts & Crafts movement. To purchase just one of her tiles at a time would be a special treat for gifts and holidays.

She has several tiles directly inspired by William Morris. Sadly, there is one labeled "William Morris motto tile" that I'd love to see larger, but the link appears broken :(

There are so many more amazingly beautiful tiles on her site too.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

April Love

Stephanie over at Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood posted this today, and I just had to share it here too!

Everything we're seeing about the Lady of Shalott film just has me giddy as a schoolgirl. As a wonderful addition to the film, in the scene in which Tennyson reads his poem, one of the audience members will be dressed in the gown from Arthur Hughes' famous painting, April Love. I just get so elated when I see people recreating the gowns and poses of the Pre-Raphaelites so perfectly!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Edwin Austin Abbey -- The Great Unknown American Pre-Raphaelite

Edwin Austin Abbey was born in 1852 in Philadelphia. He studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. And he is, in my estimation, the closest thing America has to a true Pre-Raphaelite.

Although his art is absolutely stunning...to me, the equal to anything done by the second wave of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood...he isn't very well known at all. Very few books have been written about him. My friend, Lisa of Arteffex, who first introduced me to Abbey, visited the Holy Grail Murals in the Boston Public Library, painted by Abbey in 1895. The 15 murals at the library show the quest of Galahad from infancy to kingship. She visited the book store at the library to find a volume of his works, only to find that there was just one book published in the 1960s with black and white illustrations!

Although Abbey is generally referred to as a Golden Age Illustrator (and his work does have some aspects in common with such artists as Warwick Goble and Howard Pyle, I still feel like there's something about Edwin Austin Abbey's work especially that puts him in more of a Pre-Raphaelite style. His work seems more three-dimensional...more painterly than others of the Golden Age Illustrators (who I adore, let it be known).

Abbey's style puts me in mind of Waterhouse...very emotional and romantically minded. And yet he doesn't seem to have a "type" of female model like Waterhouse, Burne-Jones, and Rossetti all did. If you look closely at this stunning artwork of his, you can see that each of the women not only are dressed entirely uniquely, but they each have their own features and characteristics. This is my favorite artwork by Abbey, Castle of the Maidens. Thanks to Lisa for the image.

Please note...all of the below images are not done justice on the small thumbnail. Please enlarge each and every one for maximum impact!!!

(Incidentally, if you zoom in on this image, the woman's face directly to the left of the man in red looks very very Waterhouse to me...do you see it?)

Perhaps, like me, you have seen some of Edwin Austin Abbey's work before you even realized who he was, or that it was all done by the same amazing artist. I have long admired this piece of his...Oh Mistress Mine, Where Are You Roaming?

And I had also admired his artwork, Fair is My Love:
My fascination with Abbey comes in part from how few of his artworks are readily available online. Lisa graciously scanned these artworks in from a book she has on the Holy Grail that I didn't see anywhere else online:

And National Geographic's website has an article on the Grail that features this stunning piece as well:

My husband's family is from Youngstown, Ohio, and in their Butler Museum of American Art, they have a painting by Abbey that drew me in and captured me when I visited there, again, before I even put two and two together and realized Abbey was the same artist of other works I had admired. The artwork is entitled The Lady Anne, based on a scene from Shakespeare's Richard III. What I love so much about this artwork cannot be captured by as small an image as I can find of it online. The woman's face has something very very ethereal...quite faerie and not human at all...about it. In person, it stopped me in my tracks. The pose of her hands is very Rossetti too, is it not?

I'll close with a few more artworks by Abbey, since I simply cannot get enough. It fascinates me how his work keeps popping up all over the place...To me, he is truly the greatest untapped and relatively unknown artist of the Romantics.

King Lear, Act I, Scene I

A few images of the murals at the library:

An enlargement of the last image:
Richard, Duke of Glouchester, and the Lady Anne:

Stunning. Just stunning. I have a new addition to my top favorite artists...how about you?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Another Talented DeviantArtist

DeviantArtist SonoftheSea has recently taken some really stunning Pre-Raphaelite / Romantic Victorian art style photos.

Pandora's Box I

The Good Bride II

Two Sides of Mary: Light II

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lady Shalott on Facebook

The Facebook user Lady Shalott has collected some wonderful galleries of images past and present, as well as an album of cultural references to the Tennyson Lady.

My favorite album, however, is her gallery of images from Howard Pyle's illustrated edition of The Lady of Shalott. I had seen a few images before, but didn't put two and two together and realize that this was a full illustrated book. Apparently it was, according to a listing on Amazon, "his first commission to completely illustrate a book. This title and "Yankee Doodle" were worked simultaneously by Pyle: both were early American experiments in color printing for children's books, an attempt to emulate the excellent flat color printing achieved by the great English color printer, Edmund Evans [see: PITZ p52]. Pitz calls Pyle's work in this florid Art Nouveau style, "an interesting period piece with more vigor and invention than most British illustration of the time."

It's also very expensive, sadly.

Beautiful. And fascinating. Go check out her album!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Lady of Shalott Beaded Purse

Thanks to Jen Parrish for directing me to this gorgeous beaded purse / bag made by Winebrenner Gallery

The strap reads
"When the moon was overhead, came two
young lovers lately wed: ‘I am half sick of shadows’,
said The Lady of Shalott"


Thursday, March 5, 2009

An interesting bathtub from Puritan Values

A favorite website of mine is British antique shop, Puritan Values Ltd. They have page after page of gorgeous Arts & Crafts furniture and items. It's truly like an endless stream of pretty.

Last night I discovered a page with pictures of a few buildings the owner has, with rooms furnished beautifully from his stock (and most things are sellable). The rooms are available for let, as well.

In one of the bathrooms, my attention was distracted by this tub:

The owner says it is "an original Victorian bath I had re-enamelled & decorated with Pre-Raphaelite pictures, and then specially coated to resist water. If you might be interested in an original bath restored to look like this, or decorated to your own designs, then do email me with your requirements."

I'm of two minds on this tub. On the one hand, in the right sort of slightly quirky Pre-Raphaelite themed bathroom, it could be divine. But I have a soft spot for Victorian pedestal tubs, and part of me would want to just leave it alone.

What do you think of it?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Buy a Victorian Romantic Painting from Michael Jackson!

I recently perused the catalogs from Julien's auctions of Michael Jackson's personal belongings from Neverland Ranch, and was surprised and fascinated to discover that he owned The Death of Cleopatra by Jean Andre Rixens.

I'll be curious to know how much it goes for! The catalogs are fascinating to look through regardless.