Sunday, December 1, 2013

Tarot of Delphi

Now here's a worthy Kickstarter effort!  Janet Hinkel is working on creating a tarot deck illustrated with neoclassical Victorian art, including quite a few familiar images. 

The deck looks gorgeous so far, and so do the donation incentives.  So donate a bit today!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Guided Tour of the NGA Exhibition (By An Emotional Observer) Part 2

So where did we leave off?  Ah yes...I hadn't gotten very far, had I?  So far we've only ventured into the first room of the NGA exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite art, and stepped into the second room to admire the wall of portrait sketches.

The Huguenot by Millais

Honestly out of all of the artworks in the whole exhibition, this was a strong contender for the most "wow" factor in person compared to online images or reproductions.  The absolute precision in every line, the color.  I saw the painting and the first thing I thought was "PURPLE"....the purple of the man's jacket is basically like the god of all purple...a rich rich rich rich shade that could be the god from which all other purple objects spring.  Hyperbole, you say?  Hmm...see it in person and then tell me what you think.

Another thing that struck me in this you see the gold cording along the top of the man's collar?  I've hardly ever seen anything more realistically rendered.   In person, it was almost three-dimensional, a hair-thin crisp line of rounded gleaming gold paint that immaculately cut across the canvas.

And can we just talk about their expressions?

This was the first image in the exhibition to really drive home to me the fact that art has a spirit to it.  It's not just about the physical renderings on canvas...there is a palpable energy to the art in person that reproductions just cannot capture.  For instance with this image...I felt like I was intruding on a personal moment.  The female figure's eyes are filled with gleaming tears about to overflow onto her cheeks, and you can imagine from the gentle adoring love on the man's face that when that happens in the next few seconds after this captured moment, he will lift his hand from her hair to her cheek and gently stroke them away, shaking his head as he pulls the sash from his arm.  Art like this is so much more than just a still image.  It's an entire story.


So the next artwork to catch my eye was The Death of Chatterton.  I've heard my British friends titter about how lovely this artwork is so I was curious to see it in person, as images of it never struck me as especially appealing...Pre-Raphaelite images of people already dead seemed a bit creepy to me.  And yes, that arguably includes the famous Ophelia, but we'll get to her.

So Chatterton.  I tried to find a good image of it online, but you know...I don't think one exists.

And okay, ladies, now that I've seen it in person I admit I can see what the fuss is about.  It's not so much the beauty of the central figure to me, but the brilliance of the color scheme.  In person, the art strongly resembles a hand-tinted black and white photograph, with its utterly shocking neon orange-red hair against the pale bed linens.  The face is done in a pale version of the same pallet of purples and grays as the vivid pants he wears.  Your eye is first drawn to the central figure with his angelic face and incredible hair, and then drawn upward to his view of the smoggy dreary city.  The symbolism of the flower struggling to grow and thrive in the lack of direct light is palpable as you view the image.  Once again, in an exhibition of gorgeous color, the subtle use of it here really is admirable.

Next was Millais' Order of Release.  I'll be portraits of dead bodies, one thing that always tends to make me ambivalent about an artwork is a vacant stare in a situation where one isn't warranted.  It's one thing for a solo portrait of a woman to feature her staring into space with a dreamy look on her face, it's another thing for the same look to be on the face of a woman who is supposed to be paying attention.  For this reason I've never much cared for The Order of Release.

Sadly, seeing it in person didn't make it grow on me.  It's beautifully painted.  But...where is that woman looking!?  Not at her baby.  Not at her husband she just got to see again after goodness knows how long.  Not even at the man at whom she's thrusting a piece of paper.  But she stares vacantly with a mild look of bemused relaxation at a spot on the wall behind the soldier's door.  Um...huh? 

Ironic, considering that this is the same artist who put such potent emotion on the faces of the lovers in The Huguenot.

EDITED TO ADD: Okay, I've had a few people give me their interpretations of the female figure's blank stare, and I have to admit that its given me a new respect for the painting.  I still find it a bit unsettling, but apparently that may have been an intentional decision by Millais.  Please read the comments below for excellent interpretations by several marvelous people.  Thanks all!

The next artwork to really strike me was Hunt's Portrait of Henry Wentworth Monk.  I'm not the biggest fan of William Holman Hunt.  All of the Brotherhood had a rather signature style of painting people, and I've just not much cared for his.  But the color in this painting is magnificent, as is the bold approach of a huge portrait of a single figure, after seeing so many elaborate canvases with multiple figures.  I only found one image of this painting online.

I was also charmed by the contrast of this figure holding a holy book and a newspaper.  But mostly I just adored the colors.  Oh they are so lovely in person.

Rossetti's Found was the next piece to catch my attention.  It's hard to say here how much of the feeling of this painting was because of what I know and think of it, and how much was the energy the actual painting was exuding, but I really felt bad for this well-done but unfinished canvas.  I felt like Rossetti approached working on it with the same emotions the central male figure has on his face.  The man's expression looks a little...well...lost.  Like he's not sure what to think of the melodramatics of his fallen love, or what he should do next.

When Rossetti started this painting, he had a clear cut moral opinion of the shame of a fallen woman.  Ironically, the woman in this very painting, Fanny Cornforth, taught him about the lustful rich full-bodied enjoyment of life that some "fallen women" celebrate.  And I'm sure it was difficult to return to this painting of her looking so ashamed at her sexuality...something he had come to realize could be a celebration.  And so the painting remained unfinished forever. 

And Rossetti moved on to his luscious sensual-lipped women.

About whom we will definitely chat in an upcoming post. 

Next time: two artworks, two artists, one dress.  How embarrassing!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Mermaid Hugging Man

Look for part 2 of my tour of the NGA exhibition in the next few days!  In the mean time, I give you a Wombat Friday special. 

On my birthday last Saturday, my awesome Pre-Raphaelite friend Verity gave me a heads-up on this shirt available on the website Yizzam under the description "Mermaid Hugging Man."  I got a huge giggle out of that one, and Verity and Kirsty and I joked that all Pre-Raphaelite artworks should have literal titles. 

Aaaanyway, I had to buy the shirt, and it arrived today!  Morris the Wombat approves. 

My favorite artwork on a shirt!  (In case you didn't know, the ACTUAL title is Depths of the Sea, by Edward Burne-Jones)  Life is good...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Guided Tour of the NGA Exhibition (By An Emotional Observer) Part 1

I have a confession to make: I avoided making this post.  Its been about a month since I went to the National Gallery of Art to see the exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite art there.  It was, despite my enthusiastic passion for the Brotherhood, the first time I've ever seen their art in person, and let me tell you it was overwhelming.

My friend Laurie dropped me off on Friday at the museum, and once I found my way around the building well enough to figure out where the exhibition was, I sat there in the atrium area right outside its entrance for a little while, gathering up energy and getting into the right mental state to tour the paintings.

In room one, my first reaction was overwhelming shock at the COLORS of the Brotherhood.  It's one thing to read in books about their method of painting wet on wet with a white background for greater vividness, and it's another to actually see it in person.  The first room was mostly full of large canvases with lots going on in the picture/multiple figures.  A good example of this was...

Walter Howard Deverell's Twelfth Night

You're going to get tired of hearing this, but images online really don't do some of these artworks justice.  It was, actually, interesting to me to see which paintings looked pretty much the same as they do online, and which ones weren't done justice at all.  The colors in this were vivid as all getout, but the crisp lines of the details were what really stood out.  The jester's curlicue mustache was rendered no thinner than an eyelash, but with exacting precision.  The gargoyle statues on the stairs were crisply outlined.

In fact in the notes I took on the paintings, I almost wanted to look up a thesaurus for synonyms for the word "crisp"....that was the only word for the detail lines of the an enormous HD television only even better.

In this same room, surrounded by opulent vivid colors, was Rossetti's The Annunciation

Ironic, since in its day it caused a bit of a stir for the way he painted Mary as afraid and unsure of her fate instead of divinely confident, it instead seemed at first unremarkable compared to the blaring colors of the other paintings in the room.  But the soft lack of color other than the cool blue of the background and the streak of red from the banner at front suits the mood of religious contemplativeness.

Right near Rossetti's painting was one of the most famous, and the one that caused the Brotherhood heaps of trouble when it first guessed it, I'm talking about...

Christ in the House of His Parents by Millais.  (click through image to see much larger)

The first thing to strike me was the gorgeous pale blond of Christ's eyelashes.  Pale eyebrows and lashes are so very beautiful to me, and Christ's face and eyelashes are beautiful in a way that transcends gender.  But the details of this work, my word.  It really drives home why the contemporary Victorians were so shocked by it.  It's not just that Christ is a redheaded "street urchin" or that Mary looks like a real woman and mother.  Its every little detail of the painting that was painted like real people.  The woman with the orange shawl at rear has hands that are calloused and worn from years and decades of hard work.  Mary's hands have vivid veins in them, so real you can imagine her as warm flesh and blood.  And the feet!  Everyone has the sort of feet that really did go barefoot all the time, with callouses, hardened toenails, dirty skin...  I couldn't get over every little detail of this painting.

We will end for today with the first artwork from the second that almost everyone just glanced right by, but that was a favorite in the whole exhibition for me.  (top ten at least)  William Morris' self-portrait.

Oh I just wanted to give Topsy a great big hug after I saw this painting.  It's incredible how pencil works can seem so raw and immediate compared to finished canvases.  I honestly think part of my love for the pencil work of the Brotherhood is because of my love for THEM and their stories.  Their personalities come through so much more directly in their pencil work.  Seeing this sketch by a young William Morris, so hopeful and desiring of a life in the arts, you can sense his timidity in his lines and the expression on his face in the artwork.  For being known for his blustery and boisterous outbursts, I get the sense that Morris really was in some ways an exceedingly shy and timid man, who had to push past his feelings of self-doubt to become the epitome of a renaissance man as we know him now.  That really comes across in this piece.  The terribly drawn lips, like a pair of green beans on his face, the lopsided eyes...and yet here's the bit that got me grinning: look at his signature.  It's absolutely gorgeous in its architectural rendering, and in the original its the part that is done with the deepest and most confident lines.  I just want to take him by the hands and say "oh Topsy, no, you're right...that sketch really didn't come out how you had hoped it would, but LOOK, oh just LOOK at your signature.  You have an eye for art indeed, you just have to find your own place..."

In the next installment, room 2 including the brightest most gorgeous purple I've ever seen in a painting, another painting that looks like a pastel tinted black and white photo, and a woman with an unnerving blank stare.....

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Garden-y Wombat Friday

Sometimes Morris the Wombat likes to celebrate #wombatfriday with a good book and a piece of chocolate cake.  But sometimes when the weather is as glorious as today, Morris likes to go out and bask among the glorious flowers in the garden.  

Maybe he's brainstorming new Wombatty and flowery wallpaper patterns. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

PRB Pilgrimage Part I: Delaware Art Museum

This past weekend I went on a journey...a pilgrimage of sorts.  This Pre-Raphaelite-obsessed lady went to the National Gallery to view the once in a lifetime Pre-Raphaelite exhibition there. 

Despite a passion for the Brotherhood that made me start this blog over five years ago, I have actually never seen a Pre-Raphaelite painting in person.  Well...not until this weekend.

The experience was far too much to contain in one blog, so I'm going to do a series of at least two or three.  First, I wanted to share pictures from my trip to the Delaware Art Museum.  The National Gallery exhibition was extremely strict about not allowing pictures.  Delaware, however, has the largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art in the United States.  And they were exceedingly kind and encouraging of photography, enthusiasm, etc.  While there, I met a security guard who also shares a passion for the Pre-Raphaelites.  (and gave him my card...hello if you're reading!)  Believe me, it was tempting to talk his ear off about these artists who so obsess and fascinate me.

So when I go to a convention or event and get to meet a celebrity, I like to get my picture taken with them as proof that I met them and for a memory.  It's understandable that I'd feel the same way about meeting these special pieces of art!  My friend Laurie indulged me and took my picture next to a few.  So I present to you...the Delaware Art Museum highlights!

The first image I saw at Delaware was this small portrait of Effie done by Millais on the trip when he first started falling for her.

This was on the wall by the entrance.  Yes.  I quite relate.

A Highland Lassie by Millais.  I always thought this was Effie?

The Red Lion chair.  Its companion chair was at the NGA exhibition.

Ah, hair biting.  Such a Pre-Raphaelite tease.

Three Women in a Garden Making Music by Kate Greenaway. 

A beautiful embroidered book.

The Somnambulist by Millais.  

Ahhh it's Rossetti's portrait of Lizzie!!  So tiny, so lovely, her pale eyelashes...  (dies)  Thought of you, Stephanie, while taking this one.  <3 br="">

Squee!  Beata Beatrix!  When I saw the painting done by Rossetti at the NGA exhibition, I was quite overcome.  No the point of needing to sit down and choke back sobs.  This version at Delaware was done by the studio assistant Charles Fairfax Murray.  And although it's technically amazing, I have to doesn't have the soul of the original.  But still...I was thrilled to be able to see it in person. you can see.

 Veronica Veronese.  Yay Alexa Wilding!!

Time for a quick rest break, mirroring the central gent in Burne-Jones Briar Rose painting, The Council Chamber.  

Hymenaeus by Burne-Jones.  Such lovely colors in person.

The Spring Witch by George Wilson.  The look on her face is just wonderfully rendered in person.

 Cupid's Hunting Fields by Burne-Jones.  This image is basically embossed it's so three-dimensional, and the metallic is just magnificent in person!

Love Sonnets by Marie Spartali Stillman

Alexa again!  This time in a beautifully soft full size study for La Bella Mano.

Getting goofy again, here I am mirroring Alexa's pose in the finished artwork, La Bella Mano.

Mnemosyne by Rossetti.

Once again I had to try mirroring the hand pose.  Water Willow...the portrait of Janey done on the shores of Kelmscott.  

Delaware also has an admirable collection of Howard Pyle art, including his most famous piece, The Mermaid.

So there you have it!  A brief look at my pilgrima....I mean Delaware Art Museum.  Here's a teaser for my next post...since photography wasn't allowed in the exhibition at the National Gallery, I had to get creative...and mildly blasphemous.

Stay tuned for part 2!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Wombat Friday May 3rd

So Morris the Wombat decided (after reading Kirsty's blog post on Saint George and the Dragon) that Dragon Slaying is a perfect way to pick up chicks. 

Thankfully he just didn't have the heart to follow through.

Friday, April 12, 2013

My Innaugural Wombat Friday

Some of you may already know about the Wombat Friday sensation that is sweeping the circle of Pre-Raphaelite bloggers of whom I'm fond.  It started when Stephanie Pina of the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood posted a photo of her wombat plushie on a Friday, and since then, numerous other dear friends who are respectable Pre-Raphaelite enthusiasts and scholars have bought wombat plushies and celebrated the end of the work week by photographing them in Pre-Raphaelite inspired ways.

If you wonder, why wombats? this wonderful blog by Kirsty Walker is a good primer.

All this to lead up to my first Wombat Friday entry:

I Cannot Paint You, But I Love You.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

For the Briar Rose

My two great loves are the subjects of my two blogs: the Mythic Arts and the Pre-Raphaelites.  When those two loves merge, which is in more places than one might first think, I am especially in euphoria.

Introducing the new book of short stories edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, Queen Victoria's Book of Spells.  I just finished the last tale in the book this morning, and let me tell you, they are all just excellent.   However hard it may be to choose a favorite among such outstanding tales, I have to say the award from me goes to the story "For the Briar Rose," by Elizabeth Wein.  And I am unashamedly biased on this front, as it tells the story of Margaret Burne-Jones through the metaphor/lens of the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty. 

Wein writes in her author note that she wrote this story almost fifteen years ago, and I find it especially telling that in her story, she talks about Ned Burne-Jones returning to a set of canvases he first started working on fifteen years earlier.  In both cases, with Ned's masterwork series of Briar Rose paintings and with Wein's story so delayed in publication, the subject matter is so timeless and so beautifully rendered, that a hundred years could pass in a night's sleep and we would never be able to tell for how fresh and lively the result. 

I adored this short story, not only because Wein describes what life must have been like at the Grange, with a vibrant and spontaneous Ned and Topsy holding court over their guests and family, but also because she goes a step further, and gives real vibrant life to Ned's daughter Margaret.  She asks the question "what must it have been like to be on the periphery of these great men and their great be flesh and blood of them, but still to be finding one's way through young adult life and one's place in it?"

I highly recommend the entire book, but I especially urge all enthusiasts of the Pre-Raphaelites to read this excellent short story.  With Elizabeth Wein's permission, here is a short excerpt to whet your whistle:

When Margaret came home from Scotland at the end of the summer, she found the Grange sunk in its own enchanted sleep, and its inhabitants become prisoners in the Briar Wood of her father's imagination.  Ned had begun work, again, on the paintings he had set aside fifteen years earlier, the lovely series of scenes from "The Sleeping Beauty."  The Grange was awash with sketches of slumbering young men and women, of designs for armour and studies of draped cloth; Margaret found, in a bucket in the kitchen, a length of wild rose stem as thick as her wrist and so fiercely barbed that she was amazed no one suffered any injuries in getting it there. 

Ned led his daughter out of the house to show off his work-in-progress.  the Garden Studio stood between the little orchard and the road, a long building in whitewashed stucco with a few to the apple trees.  Ned used the Garden Studio for his larger canvases, and now an entire wall was taken up with the unfinished Rose Bower.  More studies for the series lay spread about the floor and tacked to the wallboards; and Margaret, even at eighteen, felt the odd excitement of being in a place properly forbidden to her.  Most of her life she had only ever been allowed in here to bring her father cups of tea or paintbrushes that he had left upstairs and needed in a hurry. 

When she entered the little building, she had a sudden strange impression that she could not tell where the world ended and her father's paintings began.  Vagabond blades of unkempt, urchin grass had somehow managed to force their way through the earth packed between the red tiles of the steps leading to the furnace room, and pale tentacles of spindly, light-starved ivy were reaching through the narrow slit in the outer wall that Ned used to remove oversize projects.  It took her a few moments to sort out the proper and appropriate delineations: which was the common climbing rose at the studio window, and which the unreal enchanted briar caught on the unfinished canvas. 

Margaret fixed her eye on the edge of the vast canvas and touched her father's sleeve.  "This is new.  I thought you were at work on the old series."

"I thought I'd start a new one as well.  That old princess was a wanton.  I'll have to get her deposed and replaced.  Think of it, lying there among her ladies-in-waiting with her nightdress all undone--what will the prince have to say about it when he comes to wake her up?  He'll beat his own breast and tell himself, 'Now, I'm not having any of this, thank you!' And be off to the next castle without even patting her on the head--"  Ned broke off and waved at the half-completed canvas.  "to say nothing of the damage it will do my reputation if people think I condone such behaviour.  Now this young lady will be a proper churchgoer.  No lying in bed for her on a Sunday morning--except, of course, after the enchantment gets her, and then, of course, she doesn't wake up for a hundred years..."

Margaret listened to his absurd familiar patter with only half an ear.  She was rather overwhelmed by the beauty of the tangle of thorns and shell-pink roses that pulled at the heavy, green drapereries of the princess's chamber.  She marvelled that such a proliferation of depthless, timeless artistry could emanate from her grey-haired and nonsense-spewing father.

Two serving maids slept in a peaceful heap on cushions at the foot of the princess's bed, affectionate and comfortable, one of them slumped luxuriously in the other's lap, like sisters or the closest of companions.  But a good third of the canvas was empty. 

"Where's the Sleeping Beauty?" Margaret asked.

"Well," said Ned shyly, "I didn't like to start her till you were home safe and sound.  I wondered if you'd model for her."

"Oh yes, please!"

"It won't be very exciting work.  You'll have to lie there with your eyes closed."

"But she should be waking up.  That's how the story ends."

"This will leave something to the imagination," said her father.  "You don't know how the story ends."

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Allure of The Hollywood Stunner

So I don't know how I missed this one.  My husband mentioned to me tonight a lovely picture he'd seen of a favorite actress of mine, Amy Adams, in an issue of People magazine from a few weeks ago.  I went looking for the picture, and stumbled across another shoot she did in 2009 for Allure magazine that took my breath away.  I only saw two shots, but boy were they....gorgeous.

The first image, combined with combing through Google Images for more shots from the spread, suddenly struck me as being rather Lizzie Siddal.  Amy Adams in some ways reminds me of Siddal...having that delicate frailty and innocence about her that draws other people in, yet a strong steel core of courage and talent.

Also tonight my husband and I watched the movie "Now is Good" with Dakota Fanning, and I have to say I was quite impressed with her British accent and with her acting, the latter of which was never a question to me.

Now that the lawsuit surrounding the film Effie has been cleared up, release of the film is free to proceed, and I look forward to seeing another interpretation of an actress exploring the Sisterhood.

So I always love asking this question...which actors or actresses remind you of the Brotherhood or Sisterhood?  Either in physical appearance or in apparent character?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Two Ladies of Shalott

Ivory Flame is one of my favorite models.  Her face reminds me of a young Miranda Richardson, and she clearly has a great love of the Pre-Raphaelites from her images.

I love these images of Ivory Flame with equally lovely and Pre-Raphaelite model Ella Rose.  The images were intentionally inspired by The Lady of Shalott.

For more images, click here.  Ivory Flame does figure modeling, hence the blog content warning when you click the link.