Friday, February 29, 2008

The Beauty of the Undone

I'm currently reading William Morris and Red House. Today's blog features a picture found in the book. The image is of the doors to the settle in the entry way of Red House, painted by William Morris. Notice anything? It's not finished. William Morris most likely began painting the settle doors when he and his family first moved into Red House. I don't know the history of the settle from that point on, but I'm guessing it was probably moved with the family. The point is....William Morris most likely lived with this settle for the rest of his life, never finishing the figures on the doors.

I have always thought of William Morris as a figure of near superhuman voraciousness for lifelong learning. Famously, a doctor at his bedside diagnosed his cause of death as "simply being William Morris and having done more work than most ten men." His reputation is well-deserved, and I don't feel it is lessened at all by learning a lesson from the settle doors: even the greatest of artists leaves work undone.

I love to write and do art, yet I am often annoyed at myself for leaving so many projects half-finished. Sometimes I tend to get down on myself for this, and feel like I could never successfully leave a mark in any expressive field. At times like this, it is comforting to know that William Morris, a man of such accomplishments, also left things unfinished and lived with his unfinished projects and kept them around, moving ahead to accomplish so much.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Music of the Spheres, Continued

Continuing yesterday's theme of Pre-Raphaelites and music, I wanted to post about two incredible musicians who are very reminiscent of the Pre-Raphaelites both in look and musical mood.

First is Laurie Ann Haus, a singer with stunning Waterhouse-like looks who is the lead singer for the group Todesbonden. Laurie has a beautiful soprano voice that lends itself to many different musical explorations.

Second is Ariel Tebben of Ariel Rose Music, a vocalist and musician whose latest album, 'Verticordia,' was directly inspired by Pre-Raphaelite music.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Music of the Spheres

Today's topic is basically just an excuse to be able to post a quote I read that made me laugh. But the theme is...Pre-Raphaelites and music. The two seem to go hand in hand, whether we are speaking of the thematic use of instruments in Pre-Raphaelite art (see above), or the inspiration Pre-Raphaelite art can have for modern musicians.

ArtMagick is a wonderful source for looking up themes in Pre-Raphaelite art. Their theme pages can be used to look up all artworks with redheads, all artworks with harpists, etc. Thanks to them for making it easy to create the above collage of images.

Polar opposites in decorating taste, as already mentioned, Rossetti and William Morris appear to have been polar opposites in musical taste as well. William Morris had a fine appreciation for music.

"Morris had sung plain-chant at Oxford and was enthusiastic about English carols, then emerging from obscurity; in 1860 his version of 'French Noel' for four parts was published in a collection of Ancient Christmas Carols. The previous October, his birthday present to Janey was a two-volume edition of Popular Music of the Olden Time, containing tunes like Greensleeves." --William Morris and Red House

Rossetti on the other hand...

"[Rossetti] was singularly devoid of any musical taste, however. His house was decorated everywhere with curious old and esoteric musical instruments, but they were solely decorative, and Mr. Dunn never heard a note of music in it. Rossetti once went to hear a performance of "The Messiah" at the Crystal Palace when, he said, it seemed to him that everybody got up and shouted at him as loudly as possible! At another time he saw a performance of "Fidelio." The next morning he could give Mr. Dunn no clear idea of what it was all about. The only notion he had of it was that of a man who was taken out of prison, where he had been for a couple of days without food, and who, when a loaf of bread was given him, instead of eating it like any starving man would do, burst out into a long solo over it lasting for ten minutes--which he thought was obviously absurd!" --Recollections of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and His Circle by Henry Treffry Dunn.

Is it strange that both of these quotes, while completely opposing in taste, both make me like the individual more?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Burne-Jones and the Colors of the Week

I recently finished the excellent book The Pre-Raphaelites at Home. One delightful thing about this book is that there were so many little tidbits of information scattered throughout. One of my favorite tidbits was the fact that Edward Burne-Jones saw the days of the week as different colors. I thought "oh why not" and decided to try for a week wearing the colors on their designated days.

Burne-Jones' colors are as follows (my pictures above start with Monday):

  • Sunday: Gold
  • Monday: Yellow
  • Tuesday: Red
  • Wednesday: Blue
  • Thursday: Amethyst
  • Friday: Sapphire
  • Saturday: "Wet...ever since I was tiny -- but I don't know why"

The "wet" comment especially amuses me...I could just see a child Ned getting his bath every Saturday, and that sticking with him (total theorizing on my part).

What I learned from wearing the colors? Well, first, I apparently have nothing yellow in my entire closet. Second, where's the green? I love green, and with the Pre-Raphaelite affection for the outdoors, I'm really surprised that he didn't see a day as green.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Grace Notes Photography

The other day, a friend sent me a link to a stunning photograph inspired by Rossetti. I was blown away by this photographer's work, and I had to share it here! Her work is all absolutely amazing, and she does portrait sessions for a very affordable fee! Grace Notes Photography

I asked her to say a few words about her interest in Pre-Raphaelites, and so I'll let her speak for herself from here on :)

I fell in love with the Pre-Raphaelites the first time I was exposed to their art, back in the late 80's, so when I started doing photography, about 4 years ago, it was only natural that the art that I'd loved for so long would provide the inspiration for my work.

I soon realized, though, that what I was doing with the camera wasn't what was expected! Photographers seeing my work for the first time would comment on how unusual it was--not like photography at all--and would ask me what photographers I admired. I quickly grew quite sensitive on the subject--because I didn't KNOW of any photographers--I was just making photos that reminded me of the paintings I loved! In attempting to find some photographic role models, however, I discovered Julia Margaret Cameron, Lady Hawarden, and the Allen Sisters--all of whom were doing very much what I was attempting to do--only a century or so before me. Cameron, in particular appealed to me, with her sophisticated combination of drama, literature, and subtle flattery to the model, all wrapped up in a dreamlike mist, due to her unusual use of depth of field!

Left: photo by Cameron. Right: Photo by Aurora

The Pre-Raphaelites, Cameron, and the Allen Sisters understood the need for ideals in a time where morality seemed to be in disfavor; the need for peace, in a time when life seemed to be moving along so quickly that people barely had time to catch their breath; and the need for a grand, timeless, romanticized beauty, in a time when ugliness was all too easy to find. While I am, obviously, creating art in a different time, for a different audience, I believe that the parallels between their society and our own are many, and that people today are just as hungry for art that is beautiful, graceful, passionate and gentle. Art that reminds you to step back, and take a deep breath, and invites you to step into another world, where emotions run deep, but appear simpler. Art that celebrates the best that human beings can be, rather than wallowing in depravity.

I believe that however modern they might be, there's a part of almost every woman or man that wishes they were a princess or prince in a fairy tale, where the decisions they make are on a grand, heroic scale, and making the right decision can guarantee them eternal happiness...and I hope that, like my illustrious inspirations, my art can provide a resting place for people in a world that is all too often, noisy, overwhelming, and morally ambiguous.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Is Nothing Sacred?

The other day, I saw this graphic on another person's MySpace page, and it was like a car accident I couldn't look away from. I was both appalled and giggling my head off at the ridiculousness of the image (to me the best part is the glitter)

But it shouldn't be surprising that a glitter graphic was made of this painting. Out of all of the Pre-Raphaelite artworks, I would argue that the two with the greatest modern popularity among the hoi polloi are The Lady of Shalott and The Accolade. Countless people who are interested in the medieval or fantastical in the slightest will have either one or both of these artworks displayed somewhere in their homes (including my own home, I can't lie!)

The attraction of The Accolade goes beyond prints of the image, however. I admit to being somewhat obsessed over weddings and wedding trends, especially medieval-themed weddings (I am planning my own wedding too), and over the years I have discovered that of all the medieval wedding gowns, the hottest commodity, and the most requested style, is "The Accolade Gown." Google it. Go ahead. You'll find countless interpretations of the dress by numerous seamstresses, some done more successfully than others. Of course, to re-do this gown precisely would likely cost a lot of money, with the broad band of embroidery on the hem, and the jeweled-plate girdle, but there are many relatively low-price options out there that are perfectly stunning as well.

My personal favorite is done by Rossetti Costumes (love the name, and they are my absolute favorite gown/costume shoppe I've found online). Their use of sari embroidery on the hem I feel comes closest to the original gown look (although I wish there was a vertical strap on that girdle).

The popularity of the gown as a wedding gown probably comes partially from the popularity of the art itself, partially from the extremely romantic mood of the painting, and partially from the fact that the dress is very much a straight-forward idea of the medieval gown, done in white.

Have you seen any other famous Pre-Raphaelite style gowns done as wedding dresses? Let me know!

Friday, February 22, 2008

How to Decorate like Rossetti

Yesterday was a look at how to decorate like William Morris, my own personal decor hero. For a partially tongue-in-cheek antithesis today, I thought I'd let you know how to decorate like Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

First things first...the yard. Save up your money and collect a menagerie of insane animals. Must-haves include a raccoon that never stays in your own yard, peacocks that yelp at all hours of the night and make it so that the neighborhood actually creates a new rule against peacocks as pets. Purchase a pet zebra who you'll eventually have to return because he will kick and act completely wild. Buy a wombat, and name it after the husband of the woman you're having an affair with. And joke around about purchasing an elephant to wash your windows and bring in more income from passersby who want to buy a painting from such a strange man.

Rossetti's actual home on Cheyne Walk.

Inside your house, make sure you have about ten thousand things that you collect. Collect numerous obscure musical instruments, both for use in your paintings, and also just to sit around never being played and looking lyrical. Fill your house with tons and tons of mirrors, (seen in the top painting of Rossetti sitting in his home) strange antiquities, and of course, like William Morris, plenty of blue and white china.

Three pieces of china from Rossetti's actual collection.

Finally, and very importantly, the bedroom. Make sure your bedroom is extremely dark and depressing, with curtains around an ancient bed that never let in light or air. The fireplace in the bedroom should be large and stifling, with more of your collection of china, brass, and knick knacks above it. The most important thing is to feel completely unable to breathe in this room, with no breeze able to come in through the layers of curtains, not to mention the bed draperies. The only modern item in the entire room should be a box of Bryant and May's matches. Half-empty bottles of 'medicinal' ether can be scattered around at your discretion. For some reason you will have problems with insomnia.

A painting of Rossetti's bedroom, which his assistant Treffry Dunn could find nothing good to say about.

With these helpful cues, it should be simple to decorate your home like Dante Gabriel Rossetti! Just be sure to save enough money for the therapy bills that are sure to ensue.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

William Morris Interior on a Budget

I have very particular taste, and I can sum it up in two words: William Morris. When it comes to interiors, it seems he's a kindred spirit.

So I thought I'd throw out a few suggestions on how to decorate a William Morris-esque Arts & Crafts interior on a budget. The irony of this suggestion first, it may seem like an oxymoron. After all, Morris' designs were only affordable to the rich during his lifetime. And the Arts & Crafts philosophy is to focus on the process, not the product...i.e. no mass-produced items. Ah modern society it's quite hard to affordably decorate an entire home with handmade items, (although that could be the first suggestion...check for beautiful handmade items for your home!) so by necessity these suggestions don't all mirror the philosophy of Topsy himself, but at least I can give some suggestions on how to achieve the look!

And I've already mentioned previously, I love European William Morris-era A&C decor, not the Americanized 20th-century version (which is also lovely, just not all for me)

Starting from the walls in....Sadly, I've misplaced the book that has the entirety of the quote from which "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful" comes. However, in this extended quote, Morris talks about the supreme way to decorate a house, and lists what were, to him, the proper coverings for walls. He was thoroughly against the heavy, thickly draped and dark interiors so popular in Victorian times. Surprisingly for someone who seemed to love color so much, Morris also seemed to have a fondness for clean white walls, perhaps as a response to the dark and drear status quo in Victorian homes. So to begin a Morris room, white walls are a thoroughly acceptable option. Of course, there are also the stunning organic wallpapers Morris created (although I haven't had much luck finding sources for these wallpaper styles "on a budget"), or murals. The Pre-Raphaelites, and William Morris, seemed to view any flat object as a potential canvas, and the walls were no exception. Plenty of books are available on the topic of painting murals and Tromp l'oeil. And don't forget the ceiling! If you own your own home and are able to work on a large area, painting a repeating pattern on the ceiling is a very Morris-esque thing to do as well.

To simulate the gorgeous look of stained glass, so very common among the Morris & Co. circuit of friends, at a cheaper price, try one of the amazing range of stained glass full-window clings available on the market today. They can be found on ebay, or we purchased our Artscape Magnolia patterned clings from Home Depot. They run approximately $20 per poster-size sheet, and although the idea of clings may seem incredibly cheesy in theory, they are very nice. The photo below does not exaggerate their appeal.

One thing I've also noticed about William Morris interiors is that he knew exactly how to walk the line between mixing patterns appealingly and appallingly. Sometimes several beautiful tapestry-like patterns were used in the same room, on rugs, chairs, wall-hangings, and other cloth items. So don't be afraid to mix and match patterns in your room, but do so with a very cautious eye. Matching colors and sets of colors on several patterns can be a safe bet. My fiancee and I got our living room rug at Value City, and with a little searching, it can be pretty easy to find a richly colored rug reminiscent of William Morris' patterns at most department stores. Heck, there's even a rug actually called the William Morris at Target for $330, and you can find rugs for far cheaper too. Here, as I said, the philosophy of anti-mass production butts heads with the reality of decor on a budget. But in any case, William Morris had a great admiration for beautiful rugs. He created one himself, and had a gigantic rug displayed on a full wall and half the ceiling of a room in his house.

However, it's important not to get too carried away with the draperies either. The traditional Victorian home was ridiculous in the amount of cloth that covered every surface. There were a million layers on the windows, blocking out the light. But beyond that, there were also covers for benches, doorways, even painting frames. William Morris reserved fabric on the walls for mostly hanging tapestries.

The standard Victorian home was also extremely cluttered as well as extremely dark. It should come as no surprise that the William Morris home has few extraneous tchochkes. Remember the "Golden Rule" of useful beauty and beautiful necessities! Although, ironically, the starkness of a William Morris room is rather relative, and comes nowhere near the minimalist simplicity of modernism. In other words, a Morris home was shocking in its day for its simplicity, but today, looking at a Morris home interior, there were still plenty of interesting things to look at.

One interesting thing to collect to help with the Morris interior is blue and white china. Both William Morris and Rossetti seemed to have a great appreciation for blue and white china, and they both showcased their collection. And of course working on a budget, it's quite easy to find lovely blue and white china at thrift stores, antique sales, and garage sales.

Purchase a cheap and sturdy table and weather it. William Morris was fond of things with a bit of wear to them. He believed in the beauty of buildings and objects that only came with age. The tapestry room at Kelmscott contained tapestries that he considered to be no great artistic feat, but with age they had faded to quite pleasing colors. Morris also was a great voice in the Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings. So if an object has a bit of wear to it, all the more Morris-ean it is! (Yes, I just created that word)

Finally, feel free to pull a "Ned & Topsy." If your decor is plain and boring, have a friend with some artistic talent paint it up with beautiful scenes from myth and lore! When Ned (Burne-Jones) and Topsy (Morris) first moved into a set of rooms together, no modern furniture satisfied them, so Morris commissioned a set of sturdy and simplistic furniture be made, and the group of friends set to work painting them all over with scenes from lore. Nothing, to me, says PRB-era Arts and Crafts like furniture painted with storytelling scenes.
Above all, a William Morris Arts & Crafts Home is a product of love. As Pamela Todd quotes John Mackail as saying (in her wonderful book The Pre-Raphaelites at Home)... "with him, the love of things had all the romance and passion that is generally associated with the love of persons only." Make your home reflect your love, and you'll be living the William Morris life!

Please feel free to comment with more thoughts, suggestions, links, etc. on how to decorate the William Morris way!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Black and Red

A friend of mine with beautiful crimson hair is considering experimenting with coloring her hair black/dark brown. Through talking with her, I started thinking about how these two hair colors are the two that I personally find most striking and aesthetically appealing, especially in combination with each other...a redhead standing next to a woman with dark hair. Interestingly, a lot of Pre-Raphaelite artists seem to agree with me. The visual appeal of contrasting a woman with dark hair and a woman with fiery hair did not perhaps begin with the Pre-Raphaelites, but they certainly made the combination of the two more famous! A few examples...

The above is a detail from Waterhouse's Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May.

Crystal Gazers by Mowbray.
Dream of Fair Women by Harrison
Duet by Dicksee
Bower Meadow by Rossetti
Edward Robert Hughes did a series of two paintings, entitled Day and Night, celebrating the dual beauties of pale and dark.
and Edmund Blair Leighton created the same painting, Stitching the Standard, two times, the first with a redhead during the mid-day, the second with a brunette during dusk.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

In Admiration of the Assistants

Just finished reading another excellent book on the Pre-Raphaelites, and while reading this one, I was struck by how many 'unsung talents' there were among the assistants to the famous names. These assistants would be charged with finding props and fabrics and costumes needed for shoots, sometimes very specific. I laughed to myself as I read a note from Rossetti to his assistant, Harry Treffry Dunn:

There is another thing I want -- to wit, a dragonfly or two to paint in my picture, you know they are quite blue and I want one with his wings spread upwards as they do when they fly or sometimes when they stand. You might, if possible, get me 2 or 3 set up in different positions. I am wanting them as soon as possible. Also, you might get me a few blue or blue-grey butterflies. These also to be set up in action flying or resting.

I read this message from Rossetti, and I was amusedly reminded of the movie The Devil Wears Prada, when the nightmarish boss charges Anne Hathaway's character to get her children a Harry Potter book that hasn't been published. I sympathize with what I'm sure were some of the eccentric requests plied to these poor assistants by their artistically-minded bosses. I can imagine the frantic assistants wondering where in London they will find blue dragonflies, one with wings extended, one at rest, or any number of other strange objects.

Beyond that, many of these assistants duplicated works by their masters with impressive skill. Done in the style they were taught, they could be dismissed as poor copies of a rich genius, but they took great technical skill to accomplish. The above drawing was done by Dunn, clearly in the style of Rossetti, but with great talent in and of itself.

Other assistants included Thomas Matthews Rooke, assistant to Burne-Jones:

Charles Fairfax Murray, also assistant to Burne-Jones, who interestingly enough, apparently did this replica version of Beata Beatrice that I've always seen attributed to Rossetti himself:

and John Melhuish Struckwick, also an assistant to Burne-Jones. Ned knew how to pick talent!

Imagine...having no recognition for the work you create, and also having to cater to the strange whims of your employer. I have no doubt that at least some of the Pre-Raphaelites who employed assistants treated them with respect. However, by its very nature it was a difficult position, oftentimes held by very talented individuals who only recently have begun receiving any recognition at all for their work. So here's to the assistants!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pre-Raphaelite Gowns in Movies

Ahh, after a weekend at home, I'm ready to return for more Pre-Raphaelite lovelies!

Today's blog is dedicated to Maggie, the amazing creator of The Costumer's Guide to Movie Costumes, and Lisa, the modern artistic dresser and talent behind Arteffex.

Having a keen interest in costumes, as I've already recently mentioned, I get a thrill out of seeing gowns and costumes in movies, and recognizing or being told what art they were inspired by. Below are three of my favorites. Dress 1 was pointed out to me by Lisa, dresses 2 and 3 were discovered on Maggie's site.

This first example is my personal favorite. From the movie Snow White: The Fairest of Them All, Snow's mother wears a gown that is a direct duplicate of William Morris' Guinevere, or La Belle Iseult.

A side by side comparison of the dress from the movie, and the dress from the original painting. I can't believe they even had the fabric pattern duplicated!

The second example is from Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (I love this movie). The absolutely captivating character of Laura wanders her villa garden wearing a lovely robe very reminiscent of Waterhouse's The Soul of the Rose.

Finally, the gown worn by Miranda Richardson in Sleepy Hollow could have been inspired by several Pre-Raphaelite artworks of similar gowns, but I personally feel it comes closest to Edward Burne-Jones' Sidonia Von Bork.

If you see any more examples of gowns used in movies that remind you of Pre-Raphaelite art, please please please let me know! I just love seeing art come alive in three-dimensional ways.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Crawford Manor...Beautiful Pre-Raphaelite Dolls

Today's feature is a website I have drooled over for several years now. Back when I had a nearly occultish fixation on Lord of the Rings, I admired the gorgeous Arwen doll done by Cheryl of Crawford Manor. Her other doll gowns and resculpts were equally gorgeous, and I was hooked on occasionally visiting the site and imagining her gowns as full size outfits.

So imagine my thrill when I went to the site one day and saw that she had created a doll wearing the beautiful blue gown from my favorite Waterhouse painting of Ophelia!

Cheryl's description of the doll is below:

Ophelia wears an underskirt and narrow sleeves of soft brick red "suede" embellished with a golden nail head design. The “Princess” gown of soft blue “suede” has bell sleeves and a slightly boat shaped neckline. The pattern was designed to skim her figure and then flare into a wide skirt and train. The sleeves are lined with a pale caramel to coordinate with the camel “suede” band at the hem. In order to recreate the designs in the portrait, a stencil was cut and then the design was applied using a rich gold paint to the bodice front on each side of the neck lacing and along the entire hem banding. The neckline and sleeves edges were embroidered using a single strand of metallic gold thread. She wears caramel “suede” slippers which are laced with golden threads and golden panties.

Her bouquet of wild flowers, daisies and poppies rests in the folds of her upswept skirt and a golden thread loop can be caught over her hand to secure the folds. Matching daisies and red poppies are caught in her long auburn tresses. She wears a medallion on a golden chain, gold hoop earrings, embossed golden brow ornament and a “sapphire” faceted crystal signet ring.

A Robert Tonner 16" Fashion Doll Sydney Chase has been completely repainted and re-styled for her role as Ophelia. She has green eyes shadowed in soft charcoal, russet feathered brows, beautifully shaded natural lips, a French manicure, partially braided, shaped and gently waved hair and carefully trimmed applied lashes.

I would love to someday very soon make my own version of this absolutely beautiful gown, so I was fascinated to see it rendered in real fabrics.

Cheryl has also done several other dolls of interest to the Pre-Raphaelite afficionado. These include a beautiful version of Kinuko Craft's Eleanor of Aquitaine (as I've mentioned, I consider Craft to be a modern Pre-Raphaelite), and a beautiful version of Mucha's the Four Seasons (Mucha of course was an Art Nouveau artist, but I find that many fans of Pre-Raphaelite art also like his work, myself included). While you're on the site too, be sure to explore some of her original doll gown creations. Her work is endlessly creative.

I am honored to feature such a talented artist!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Portrait of Love: William Morris

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone out there! In honor of the holiday, I wanted to talk about the central figure of the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris, and the impressive expressions of love he exhibited during his lifetime.

The first beautiful declaration of love from William Morris to Jane Burden occurred when he was painting her image, an artwork that would later be known as Guinevere, or La Belle Iseult. Legend has it (apparently this piece of information cannot be solidly dated any earlier than the early 20th century) that as he was painting her, he scrawled the words “I cannot paint you, but I love you” on the back of the canvas for Jane Burden to read. Out of all of the many legendary romantic gestures among the Pre-Raphaelites (for so William Morris was attempting to be at the time), this one strikes me as the most authentic and endearing. I wish I could have seen that moment when Morris first revealed the words on the canvas. Did he have a fabric draped over it, and reveal it when he knew she would be looking? Did he write the words on the canvas in front of her? And what was her reaction to this shy but romantic gesture?

In any case, Morris went on to propose to Jane Burden, and she accepted. His friends were shocked at the gesture. As his friend Swinburne said in response to the news, “to kiss her feet is the utmost men should dream of doing.” However, the Pre-Raphaelite idea of holding beauty up as an ideal, and treating the “Stunners” with chivalric and near idolatrous devotion had no practical application in Victorian England. Beauty has no class limitations, and often times the Stunners the Pre-Raphaelites would paint were from working class or even lower class surroundings. Jane Burden Morris was one of these individuals, and frankly, I feel that Swinburne’s reaction, along with the reaction of other friends of “Topsy,” (William Morris’ nickname) was extremely selfish and impractical. William Morris saw Jane Burden, and did not distance himself from her in a way that allowed him to “worship” her. He loved her enough to take her away from her lower-class origins, and give her a new life. How lovely and fine it is to speak from ivory towers of kissing the feet of Jane Burden. But those feet were attached to a body that might not even have enough food to eat. Reason #2 why William Morris has endeared himself to me.

But William Morris’ examples of showing a true love don’t end there. In one of his acclaimed poems, he wrote a beautiful description that is very clearly meant to be Jane.

Another incredibly romantic gesture on the part of William Morris.

But here again, the depths of William Morris' love for Jane do not end. Jane Morris was in a romantic relationship with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, perhaps even dating back to before William and Jane were married. Eventually William Morris found out, and he would have been completely within his rights to divorce Jane and leave her destitute and without any contact with her own children. However, William Morris proposed an extremely unorthodox solution. He and Rossetti co-signed the lease on Kelmscott Manor, with the understanding that it would be a place where Rossetti and Jane could go to be together. It's extrapolation on my part, but I see William Morris' actions as being further proof that he loved Jane too much to send her back into poverty and withhold her children from her.

After Rossetti died, Jane Morris had at least one more affair before William Morris died. Yet he continued to stay by her side, although his poetry at times becomes more melancholy. The amazing love that William Morris showed to Jane Burden Morris actually reminds me of a story from the Bible. In the Old Testament, the Prophet Hosea married the prostitute Gomer, and no matter how many times she would cheat on him and leave him, he would come and take her away, clean her up, and care for her. The love that he showed his wife was meant to mimic the love God had for His chosen people. This beautiful and unconditional love is mimicked by William Morris' actions toward Jane throughout their life together.

True love, even if not reciprocated.

This blog wouldn't be complete without wishing a Happy Valentine's Day to my own beloved, my fiancee, Thomas. Like Morris, Thomas finds big and small ways to show his love for me. True Thomas, I love you and I can't wait to be married!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Rossetti's Favorite Pin

Do you ever look at an artwork that you've seen a million times, and all of a sudden, something you never even noticed before becomes immediately apparent? One thing I so admire about Pre-Raphaelite art is the way that little details emerge each time you stare at a painting.

Recently, I read the book Pre-Raphaelite to Arts and Crafts Jewelry, after Jen Parrish mentioned it in a blog of hers. The book made mention of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's favorite pearl pin, and showed a couple of artworks in which he featured the piece of jewelry. I can't believe I never before noticed in how many of his artworks this brooch is featured! According to the book, the pin was "borrowed" by a friend, who lost track of it. Rossetti was quite furious about this. I would love to find a replica of this pin somewhere.

The pin is worn by the woman directly behind and to the right of the central figure in The Beloved (the woman peering over her head)

Here the pin is worn by the figure in Mona Vanna.

Jane Morris had her turn wearing it in Mariana.

Even a different artist, Marie Spartali Stillman, had to include the pearl pin in a portrait she did in the style of Rossetti, Jolie Coeur.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Flickr: A wonderful place

I honestly adore Flickr. Not only as a place to put my own pictures to share them with family and friends, but as a general resource. Planning a vacation? Do a Flickr search for the location you want to visit. I also love doing general keyword searches related to the Pre-Raphaelites on Flickr. You can find some really fascinating things that way. Today's general keywords were....The Lady of Shalott. Here are my finds.

Above is a gorgeous photograph of the Lady of Shalott taken by Henry Peach Robinson in 1861.

Apparently somewhere out there there's a full-size statue of the Lady of Shalott. How creative!

And my favorite find of the day is a gorgeous pendant by artist Kelly Morgen. I have gone to her website now, and drooled all over my keyboard over her gorgeous works! Her headpieces and initial pendants are my favorites.
I know, I know...this blog is a week old, and I've already had two posts about The Lady of Shalott. I promise to be more diverse. I just consider The Lady of Shalott, Ophelia, and La Belle Dame Sans Merci to be the holy trinity of Pre-Raphaelite subject matter.

Monday, February 11, 2008

R.I.P. Lizzie Siddal

Thank you to my friend Robin, aka Siddal, for informing me that today is the anniversary of the death of Elizabeth Siddal, Lizzie, arguably the most influential muse of the Pre-Raphaelites (I'd be hard pressed to choose between her or Jane Morris). Lizzie is most famously remembered for the hours she spent in a tepid bathtub posing for Millais' famous Ophelia painting, and is also remembered for the macabre story of her husband, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, having her coffin later exhumed in order to retrieve the book of poetry that he had buried with her. But of course Lizzie was far more than these two stories. She was a talented artist in her own right, and a bright light that dimmed far too soon.

Millais' famous painting of Lizzie as Ophelia. Millais had heat lamps underneath the bathtub in which Lizzie was posing, but he became so engrossed in rendering the folds of the sodden fabric that many of them burned out.

Lizzie died on February 11, 1862.

Two books on the subject of Lizzie (I have not yet read many books, so little time) are
Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel
Lizzie Siddal: Face of the Pre-Raphaelites

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Artistic Dress

Today I wanted to chat a bit about Artistic Dress. First began by the Pre-Raphaelites (well, the wives and female family members of the P.R.B.), the idea of Artistic Dress was begun for aesthetic and non-political reasons. Although the burgeoning Victorian dress reform movement encouraged this trend for furthering their goals of getting rid of the corseted and non-natural form of Victorian fashion, the Pre-Raphaelites and their families were more focused on the idea of incorporating nuances of the medieval style to their modern attire. However, in Pre-Raphaelite dress, as well as in their art and design, it wasn't sufficient to simply try to exactly reproduce the medieval era. The goal was to take the romance and purity of the medieval era, and make it relevant for the modern Victorian.

Although I am a long-time admirer of the Pre-Raphaelites, I am a newcomer to the entirety of their influence. I only first heard of the Arts & Crafts movement about a year ago, and the Artistic Dress movement is a recent discovery. However, I find it to be, like so many other things I discover about the beliefs and revolutionary thoughts that orbited around the PRB, quite reminiscent of my own aesthetics and thoughts. Ah how I wish I had been born to a Victorian pauper and "discovered" by an artist in the Brotherhood sometimes! (My choice would likely have been Burne-Jones, incidentally) But I digress. The admiration I hold for the Artistic Dress Movement is twofold: first, it is near and dear to me that they sought to incorporate a medieval aesthetic into their every-day dress while still not appearing in "costume," and secondly that they were willing to undergo the criticism and mocking of the society as a whole in order to stay true to their personal ideals of beauty. Both of these sentiments are near and dear to me, and greatly admired.

I have a friend, who I personally believe to be one of the most beautiful women I know, who I consider to be a modern-day Artistic Dresser. Although she lives in a conservative area of America, she wears breathtaking velvet skirts and jackets, Parrish Relics with everything, and her russet hair in a waist-sweeping length. This kind of devotion to one's personal aesthetic despite popular cultural "norms" is precisely the modern day lesson to be learned by artistic dress.

Lisa, the epitome of modern Artistic Dress!

The artwork at the top of this post is a satiric painting by William Powell Frith, showing the difference between artistic dress (worn by the women on the left and right in the painting) vs. the modern Victorian style (worn by the women in the middle).

A diagram showing the horrifying effect that a Victorian corset can have on the internal organs over a period of time. The style of artistic dress, with its focus on fabric drapery and the revealing of the subtlety of a woman's natural un-corsetted body, fit in quite wonderfully to the aims of the Victorian Dress Reform Movement.

Jane Morris, the Pre-Raphaelite beauty, wearing a wonderful example of an Artistic Dress.

I found the biography of Jane Morris to be a wonderful source for information on Artistic Dress.