Monday, July 28, 2008

Arts & Crafts Antique Items

I have been to The Arts and Crafts Home websit before, of course, but for some reason I never noticed their antique sale page. My goodness....eye candy galore! I love seeing actual Arts & Crafts era furniture and items, and there's plenty of them here. None of it affordable to me, but can dream and be inspired!

Among my favorite treasures...

A print of a watercolor painting by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale I'd never seen, depicting a tender scene with a medieval family.

A gorgeous bit of stained glass:

I'll take this corner cabinet, thank you please:

Real Morris fabric on an antique chair!

A beautiful Arts & Crafts handbag:

I'll take one of these too:

Add a few tiles for the fireplace:

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Yeats and the Pre-Raphaelites...two of my favorites converge

W.B. Yeats has long been my favorite poet. So imagine my joy when I read his biography, Four Years, which discusses his interaction with the Pre-Raphaelite movement. It's a wonderful read!

Elizabeth Bergmann has a wonderful site further discussing Yeats' connection to the Pre-Raphaelites. She says:

To begin with, Yeats's father, John Yeats, was a professional painter; when W.B. was a child, John admired the Pre-Raphaelites, particularly Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He gave William a copy of Rossetti's writings along with a copy of Shelley's, and illustrated one of his son's children's books with Pre-Raphaelite faces. John moved in a circle of Irish Pre-Raphaelite painters, among them Frank Potter, whose Dormouse hung in the Yeats home during William Butler's youth. The painting made such an impression on W.B. that he would remember it years later (1922), when writing his autobiography.

In 1874, John Yeats moved his family to England--specifically, to Bedford Park--in order to take place in a community modeled after Willaim Morris's Arts and Crafts movement. With beautifully decorated homes, simple yet bright clothing, and an active aesthetic discourse, the community would attempt to make reality correspond to the beautiful dreams that the Pre-Raphaelites painted. Before the move, W.B. misinterpreted some things his father said, and was convinced that in this new place: "There is to be a wall round and no newspapers to be allowed in" (Autobiography 27). Upon arriving and finding no wall, he was extremely disappointed. He describes the actual Bedford Park:

"We were to see De Morgan tiles, peacock-blue doors and the pomegranate pattern and the tulip pattern of Morris, and to discover that we had always hated doors painted with imitation grain, the roses of mid-Victoria, and tiles covered with geometrical patterns that seemed to have been shaken out of a muddy kaleidoscope. We went to live in a house like those we had seen in pictures and even met people dressed like people in the story-books. The streets were not straight and dull as at North End, but wound about where there was a big tree or for the mere pleasure of winding, and there were wood palings instead of iron railings" (Autobiography 27).

The four Yeats children took dancing lessons from the sisters of "a well known pre-Raphaelite painter" (Autobiography 28), and the family lived near Burne-Jones. In short, the child William lived surrounded by and steeped in Pre-Raphaelite principles.

Although John eventually rejected Pre-Raphaelitism in favor of a less romanticized naturalism, these childhood experiences had deeply influenced William. Yeats wrote of his youth: "I was in all things Pre-Raphaelite" (Autobiography 76). Although even his early poetry shows less word-painting and more intricate symbolism than that of the Pre-Raphaelites, the statement is not entirely false. John's dismissal of the Pre-Raphaelite movement was the subject of several battles between father and son, and William may have stuck with the movement so closely not only because it appealed to his aesthetic sense, but also because it irritated his often domineering father.

William Morris became the young poet's hero. Yeats took part in the debates of the Socialist League, which occurred weekly at Morris's residence. He "was soon of the little group who had supper with Morris afterwards" (Autobiography 93). Yeats's sister worked as a seamstress under May Morris (sister of William Morris). And by sending the long poem The Wanderings of Usheen to Morris's daughter, Yeats managed to get it under the eyes of Morris himself. As the poet reports: "...soon after sending it I came upon him by chance in Holborn-- 'You write my sort of poetry,' he said and began to praise me and to promise to send his praise to the Commonwealth, the League organ, and he would have said more had he not caught sight of a new ornamental cast-iron lamp-post and got very heated upon the subject" (Autobiography 98). (It's just possible that Yeats cared more for Morris than Morris did for Yeats.)

W.B. gave up the socialist circle in the late 1880s, because all of its members with the exception of Morris rejected religion of any sort.

Yeats actually claims that adherence to or deviance from Pre-Raphaelite principles made and broke his circle of friends in his younger years. His Autobiography contains anecdotes about his prosthelytizing friends who he felt were falling away from the principles of the Pre-Raphaelites. During the 1890s, he belonged to an association of poets called The Rhymers Club (including such figures as Ernest Rhys, John Davidson, Arthur Symons, and occasionally even Oscar Wilde), all of whom admired Pre-Raphaelitism. Teacher and critic Walter Pater, who believed that art need serve no utilitarian, materialistic purpose, encouraged Pre-Raphaelite tendencies in the group.

William Butler Yeats is not a Pre-Raphaelite himself, despite these influences. However, he probably did pick up his extreme love of symbolism from the Brotherhood and their successors. The taste for mysticism that attracted him to the Pre-Raphaelites when he was young later became his full-blown occultism; both he and late Pre-Raphaelite painters, for instance, often portrayed fairies. Yeats's nostalgia for "ancient ways," as he puts it in "To the Rose upon the Rood of Time" is similar to the Pre-Raphaelites preoccupation with the past, although Yeats's ways are often those of mythic Ireland rather than medieval England. He paints very color-conscious poetry, poetry concerned with making the real beautiful without obscuring its reality--the very aim of Pre-Raphaelitism.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Sleep of Arthur In Avalon....

...almost slept forever....with the fishes.

My fiancee and I have enjoyed watching the BBC series The Private Life of a Masterpiece, which documents a different masterpiece in 1 hour programs exploring the entire history of the artwork, from conception to modern re-interpretation.

Thanks to the owner of for bringing my attention to this article, via the forums on his site. Burne-Jones' final masterpiece was almost destroyed 30 years ago. The story is below:

In the winter after his death, Arthur at Avalon was first seen by the public in a memorial exhibition. It was subsequently sold to Charles Goldman, a collector who in 1929 offered to sell it to the Tate; when the offer was refused, he lent it instead. There it was last exhibited in 1933, the centenary of the painter's birth. It remained on loan until April 1962, but at some point, probably in August 1939 when the Tate evacuated its paintings in preparation for the Second World War, it was removed from its stretcher, rolled, and put into a stout box some half-metre square and three metres long. In that it stayed undisturbed until 1963, when Goldman's heirs consigned it to Christie's, where I was then working, for inclusion in a sale by auction on Friday 26 April.

The box containing the canvas was not delivered until the previous Friday, 19 April. From a small black and white photograph I had to concoct a cata logue entry for a picture that no one had seen for 30 years and that played no part in the then available literature; it was thus with particular interest that I watched its arrival in the lofty anteroom, the unscrewing of the lid and the myriad spiders that scuttled from the box. The vast canvas was then gently unrolled on the floor, obstinate in its curvature, and the mass of webs and other arachnid detritus removed from it. How could we display so large a canvas without a stretcher? As a tapestry on a tapestry bar, I decided, but not one in the house was six metres long and another had to be procured. With the canvas tacked to it by the raw edge that had formerly folded over the original stretcher, it was hauled up the wall with a dozen of us supporting it to ensure that the inevitable inverted curvature was kept as open as possible. It worked. The canvas, however, was much weightier than any tapestry.

Christie's chairman, Peter Chance, then came in to see the masterpiece. Demure, a pink and silver man, short, stout and erect, he strode to its very centre and within a pace of it; at that moment the weight of the canvas began to tear it from the bar. Poor Peter reached to press it against the wall, but the avalanche could not be stopped, the canvas ripped away, curled forward and enclosed him in its vastness. Instead of standing still, he panicked, fought his way out of the belly of this whale, dishevelled, and the canvas lay face down, a crumpled heap.
The one thing that must never be done with a painted canvas is to roll it face in, but that is more or less what happened in its fall. When we reversed it and flattened it we saw the consequences — flaked paint lay thickly on the floor, the whole width of the canvas where flowers fill the foreground, the area of heaviest initial impact, was extensively damaged, and the widespread random damages elsewhere reflected the chair-man's efforts to escape.

I called Joan Seddon, old friend and Courtauld Institute contemporary, a distinguished conservator of paintings then working on the restoration of Mantegna's Triumphs at Hampton Court. We had until 9am on Monday morning, when the picture was officially on view — some 30 working hours, we thought — in which to camouflage the damages. Lying on cushions on the canvas Joan began work at the top, and I, on my knees, began at the bottom on the easier business of repairing the crudely painted flowers. Thirty hours were not enough and we worked through the night on Sunday.

During the week of the sale not a word was said by anyone. Did no one notice how much of Arthur at Avalon had been damaged? And if they did, did they assume that the damages were old? When the painting was bought by the museum in Puerto Rico, it was relined, cleaned and stretched before being framed and installed in a specially constructed room —- did none of the experts responsible for these procedures not notice how much of the paint was new? Or were all the damages stripped and re-restored without a word to the new owner? Looking at the painting now, 45 years later almost to the day, under the uneven glister of a patchy varnish, I could identify very few of Joan's interventions, but was appalled by the crude quality of the irises, blue-bells and forget-me-nots —- is any one of them by Burne-Jones himself, or are they all by one of the 20 assistants he once had, by Thomas Rooke, by me and subsequent restorers?

More Aesthetic Dresses

Can you tell I really am enamoured with this dress movement? A recap, the dress movement was entirely intertwined with the Pre-Raphaelite art movement, and several people feel it was begun by Rossetti himself.

First, a wonderful article on the aesthetic / dress reform movement. The images include this beauty:
And also fascinating, an example of underwear that might have been worn with aesthetic dress:

And blast it all...I just noticed this exhibit was at the Ohio State University...only about an hour from where I live. Too bad I didn't know about aesthetic dress in 2000. :(

I also love this image of three women in aesthetic dress. Their dresses appear to be worn with corsets, but they do have the romantic silhouette:But this is perhaps the most beautiful aesthetic dress I've seen yet:

The article accompanying the gown describes it as "made from moss green velvet, and has a blue central panel with smocking; a popular feature of aesthetic dress. The dress is made from very natural looking colours, and the moss green with the central splash of blue almost resembles a forest with waterfall."

Here's a beautiful aesthetic dress made by Holley Gene Leffler

And another period piece featured on Flickr:

I really must make an aesthetic dress sometime!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Burne-Jones' Fat Ladies

I found a reference that discusses Burne-Jones' Fat Lady drawings, and also provides a fascinating theory as to why Burne-Jones drew such portly caricatures of Morris.
"Barbed or not, the caricatures of Morris are one of the many expressions of what can only be described as Burne-Jones's obsession with obesity. By far the best known of these drawings are the fat ladies', many dressed in their evening finery, large bustle on large bottom, others caught in a strong wind or some other revealing situation. Graham Robertson recalled a projected series of imaginary Portraits of Prominent Women' which was suppressed by the home authorities after the appearance of the first batch. The prominences were so unlooked-for and arresting.'
It is said that Burne-Jones's chief model for these unflattering likenesses was Blanche, Lady Lindsay, wife of Sir Coutts Lindsay who owned the Grosvenor Gallery, but there were other contributory sources. Hefty lady Wagnerian singers held a ghastly fascination for him, and he was riveted by Emma Frank, the American Tattooed Lady, visiting the Westminster Aquarium when she was exhibited there in 1894 to gaze in wonder at the reproduction of Leonardo's Last Supper emblazoned on her ample back, and the medley of Stars and Stripes, Union Jacks and other incongruous images elsewhere on her anatomy" (pp. 12-13).

"[Burne-Jones] was frightened by Morris's growing stoutness. It was this fear, only just disguised as a joke, which combined with even deeper ones to produce Burne-Jones's fantasies of Fat Ladies (or Prominent Women). Both Georgie and Frances Horner strongly disapproved of these, yet he continued to do them for nearly twenty years. There are pig-like Fat Ladies in bed, in the Turkish baths, chased naked by a swarm of bees, bending over his easel and stifling him, invading the beach at Rottingdean. The horror of fatness was obsessional " (Penelope Fitzgerald, Edward Burne-Jones, p. 189).

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sarachmet's Photography

Today I'm honored to feature the photography of an amazingly talented woman. She is Sarachmet, a woman who creates incredible art with her camera and digital software that could easily sit side by side with the great Pre-Raphaelite artworks of the past, while also seeming to be utterly of the present as well.

I am blown away by the talent of Sarachmet, and I love to see all of her new projects as she creates them.

Please click the above images for larger versions...thumbnails don't do them justice. And peruse her entire Deviant Art profile.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Virtual-Waterhouse -- The Sims

While searching online for something else Pre-Raphaelite related, I found a neat site (I seem to find a lot of my favorite things that way).

The Cloth Menagerie has created gown skins for characters from The Sims based on ten different John William Waterhouse paintings! Some have been done before, but others are quite creative, like the skin for the gown from Circe of my favorite paintings by Waterhouse. The Pre-Raphaelites do pop up in the most unusual places!

Incidentally, I've long been interested in The Sims, but I've avoided trying the game because I know I'd get sucked in.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Spiderwick and William Morris

Again, in the category of "you might be a William Morris addict if..."

My fiance and I were watching The Spiderwick Chronicles tonight, finally for the first time, (I've read the books, have met Holly Black in person, and am rather faerie lore obsessed) and I was distracted from the movie by the house itself. I absolutely love old magical houses in movies (another favorite, Practical Magic, comes to mind) and this house was just calling out my name.

It was easy to spot William Morris' most popular-selling wallpaper of all time, 'Willow' featured in this scene:

...but then later on during the climax of the film, I was distracted by the quick shots of the walls in this room, which seem to be covered in William Morris' 'Sunflowers.'

Yes...I was distracted from a cool movie by the wallpaper. ;) And now I wonder how much more I'd notice upon viewing it again. If you watch this movie and spot any other Arts & Crafts/William Morris touches, please share!