Sunday, 11 August 2013

Jane Morris (née Jane Burden) The Pre - Raphaelite Muse "par excellence" ...

Jane Morris (née Jane Burden, 19 October 1839 – 26 January 1914) was an English artists' model who embodied the Pre-Raphaelite ideal of beauty. She was a model and muse to the artists William Morris, whom she married, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
She married William Morris at St Michael at the Northgate in Oxford on 26 April 1859. Her father was described as a groom, in stables at 65 Holywell Street. After the marriage, the Morrises lived at the Red House in Bexleyheath, Kent. While living there, they had two daughters, Jane Alice "Jenny", born January 1861, and Mary "May" (March 1862–1938), who later edited her father's works. They moved to Queens Square in London and later bought Kelmscott House in Hammersmith as their main residence.
In 1871 Morris and Rossetti took out a joint tenancy on Kelmscott Manor on the Gloucestershire-Oxfordshire-Wiltshire borders. William Morris went to Iceland leaving his wife and Rossetti to furnish the house and spend the summer there. Jane Morris had became closely attached to Rossetti and became a favourite muse of his. Their relationship is reputed to have started in 1865 and lasted, on differing levels, until his death in 1882. The two shared a deep emotional relationship, and she inspired Rossetti to write poetry and create some of his best paintings. Her discovery of his dependence on the drug, chloral taken for insomnia, eventually led her to distance herself from him, although they stayed in touch until he died in 1882.
In 1884, Morris met the poet and political activist Wilfrid Scawen Blunt at a house party given by her close friend Rosalind Howard (later Countess of Carlisle). There appears to have been an immediate attraction between them. By 1887 at the latest, they had become lovers. Their sexual relationship continued until 1894, and they remained close friends until his death.
Jane Morris was an ardent supporter of Irish Home Rule. A few months before her death, she bought Kelmscott Manor to secure it for her daughters' future, although she did not return to the house after having purchased it.

William Morris died on 3 October 1896 at Kelmscott House, Hammersmith, London. Jane Morris died on 26 January 1914 while staying at 5 Brock Street in Bath.

Unknown portrait by Dante Gabriel Rossetti emerges
The portrait, unknown to scholars for over a hundred years, depicts Dante Gabriel Rossetti's muse Jane Morris.

A portrait redolent of one of the most famous romances of the Victorian era has surfaced for sale from a private collection in Scotland where it has been, unrecorded and unknown to scholars, for over a hundred years.
Painted in 1869 by the pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, it represents his muse, Jane Morris, who was married to Rossetti’s business partner, the artist and designer William Morris.
Artist and sitter first met and were attracted to each other in 1857, but as Rossetti was already engaged to Elizabeth Siddall, she married Morris instead. However, after Siddall tragically took her life in 1862, and the Morris marriage appeared to flounder, the relationship was rekindled.
The year 1869 is generally thought to be when Rossetti reconciled his grief for Siddall with his love for Jane Morris. Though gossip levels ran high, lack of documentary evidence has left historians guessing at the degree of intimacy achieved between them.
Each destroyed the correspondence with the other during those crucial years. The title of the painting, ‘The Salutation of Beatrice’, associates Jane with Dante’s Beatrice, the incarnation of beatific love and the object of Dante’s courtly love. A sonnet by Dante pinned to the wall extols the virtues of courtly love: ‘My lady looks so gentle and so pure…’
The highest price for Rossetti is the £2.6 million paid by Australian collector, John Schaeffer, in 2000 for a pastel drawing of Jane Morris entitled ‘Pandora’, also dated 1869. He subsequently re-sold it in 2004 for £1.7 million. The rediscovery, which is a rare oil painting, is estimated to fetch between £1 million and £1.5 million at Christie’s next month.
Coincidentaly, three previously unknown drawings by Rossetti including one of Jane Morris, have been discovered in Hampshire.
Another subject is thought to be Marie Spartali Stillman, who was the artist's model for A Vision of Fiammetta, one of his greatest paintings.
The drawings in pen and ink were presented by Rossetti's brother William in 1905 to Effie Ritchie, the daughter of Marie Spartali and have come down by descent from the family.
They have stayed with the family ever since, but have now been put up for sale at Duke's auctioneers in Dorchester on Thursday when they are expected to fetch £20,000.
The earliest drawing is titled 18th Century Ladies Meeting and shows the women holding fans and grasping each other's hand.
The next from 1855 is called Lady Having Her Hair Combed Out and the subject here is believed to be Marie Spartali Stillman.
The third from 1870 is called Venus With Two Doves for which Jane Morris is the subject. On an accompanying note William Rossetti wrote that his brother had "thought about painting this."
Andrew Marlborough from the saleroom said: “What is interesting is that the dates range from 1849 to 1870 and show the progression from traditional styles to a more Pre-Raphaelite technique.
"The subjects are also very important because Jane Morris and Marie Spartali Stillman are both key figures in the Pre-Raphaelite movement."

Jane Morris by Evelyn De Morgan in 1904

Wives and Stunners: The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Muses by Henrietta Garnett – review
Ophelia in the bath? Kathryn Hughes has seen it all before
Kathryn Hughes

You might think that there is nothing new to say about the pre-Raphaelites and their women. And on the evidence of this book you'd be absolutely right. Perhaps, though, this is to miss the point. The pre-Raphaelite brotherhood and their consorts – those milliners and shopgirls who turned themselves into Arthurian heroines with a shake of their crinkly hair and a sweep of some old brocade curtains – have become a kind of foundational myth of the 19th century, one that appears to bear endless retelling.
But how many times, really, do we need to hear how Lizzie Siddal nearly caught her death while posing in a tin bath as Ophelia? Or how high-minded Holman Hunt spent money he didn't have on finessing barmaid Annie Miller into a lady? Or how William Morris married ostler's daughter Jane Burden, only to lose her to his mentor Rossetti, who in turn was fretting over the fact that he'd buried his best poems in Lizzie Siddal's coffin and just might have to dig her up? These stories might have the lulling circular rhythm of well-loved fairy tales, but their magic depends on their being told with rare feeling. Trot them out once too often and they start to seem shabby and thin.

And "shabby and thin", really, is what we are dealing with here. Henrietta Garnett rehearses these lovely ballads without adding anything new. Although nominally concerned with the pre-Raphaelites' consorts rather than the roaring boys themselves, she has no choice but to use the men as both the spine and the beating heart of her narrative. And so we find ourselves back inside that little house in Gower Street in September 1848 when a clutch of Royal Academy students barely out of their teens swear to shake up the sclerotic art scene by returning it to the bracing pieties of the quattrocento.

Only once the young men are established on their journeys – Millais to Ewell to look for a pool in which to drown Ophelia, Hunt to the Holy Land to learn how to paint goats, and Rossetti to general perdition – do the stunners start to settle in to the story. Found in shops, pubs or simply the street, these odd-looking girls with their columnar necks and bruised mouths find themselves wrenched out of their drudging daily lives and projected into a world of stately archetypes. Under the archaizing gaze of their fogey-ish lovers, these modern city girls become goddesses, queens, madonnas and penitent whores.

And that, really, is pretty much how they remain in Garnett's strangely inert account. For although recent scholarship has done much to emphasise Lizzie Siddal as a talented artist in her own right (you can see her work at the Tate's new blockbuster exhibition), you certainly wouldn't guess it from Garnett, who dismisses Siddal's paintings in a couple of sentences as "derivative" while spending pages on her lustrous hair and laudanum habit.

Likewise Jane Morris gets virtually no credit for leading the revival in needlework skills that became such an integral component of the arts and crafts movement of the 1870s and beyond. Instead, sultry Jane is confined to a narrative that dwells in immense detail on her anguished triangle with Morris and Rossetti. While we hear all about her posing as Astarte, Mariana and Proserpine, her exquisite embroidery is shuffled off to a couple of scenes in which she stitches quietly in the background. In one she's even lying on a sofa.

Less easy to blank out are Effie Gray, who married first John Ruskin and then John Everett Millais, and Georgie MacDonald, who became Mrs Burne-Jones. While both had the required pre-Raphaelite look – fragile pallor, thick brown hair – neither became regular models for their husbands or their friends. Mostly this was a class thing: women could not become "public" faces without courting the suspicion that the rest of them was up for sale too. But it might also be that Effie and Georgie's upbringing as the daughters of professional men gave them a sense of identity that could not be overridden simply by being told to hold very still and imagine themselves as Guinevere. They were too singular, too much themselves, to be of use as muses.

Both women set out from the provincial middle class and ended married to baronets. The difference was that Effie endured an early chilly marriage to an impotent Ruskin before finding the kind of luxurious love that suited her so well with Millais. Georgie, by contrast, was engaged in a love match at the age of 15 to Edward Burne-Jones and enjoyed years of happiness before the marriage almost broke down under the strain of Ned's affair with Maria Zambaco, the Anglo-Greek heiress who became the go-to model whenever a particularly tempting temptress was required.

None of this is remotely new. Indeed, Wives and Stunners reads as if it were loosely stitched-together from fine existing biographies of individual pre-Raphaelites by the likes of Fiona MacCarthy, Jan Marsh and Angela Thirlwell. If you really want to get a proper sense of what we know now about how these people lived and worked, you would do much better to buy the catalogue for the Tate show, Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde. In it there are essays by leading scholars such as Elizabeth Prettejohn that deftly link deep knowledge about individual works of art with the social, human context in which they were made. In the process, women who languish in Henrietta Garnett's book as "wives" or "stunners" spring to life as proper historical actors, participants in a rich and surprising story rather than empty vessels waiting to be filled with ancient gossip.

"If you really want to get a proper sense of what we know now about how these people lived and worked, you would do much better to buy the catalogue for the Tate show, Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde."

Blazing a Trail for Hypnotic Hyper-Realism
‘Pre-Raphaelites’ at National Gallery of Art

WASHINGTON — If “Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design” at the National Gallery of Art were a theme-park ride, you would be strenuously exhorted to buckle up and hold on tight. Devoted to England’s ever-popular mid-19th-century art movement, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and its followers, this exhibition is full of jolts and thrills that feel intense but never go very deep.
You won’t see much in the way of great paintings, but you will probably have a great — which is to say, entertaining and edifying — time. Perhaps inadvertently this show usefully parses the difference between quality and influence, reveals much about visual culture today and even provides a yardstick by which to gauge your own sophistication.

If you are genuinely interested in art and emerge from this show thinking that you have seen scores of outstanding paintings, you should spend more time studying other examples. For comparison the galleries adjacent to this exhibition contain two outstanding works by the Pre-Raphaelites’ French contemporaries, Eduard Manet’s “Dead Toreador” (probably 1864) and Paul Cézanne’s portrait of his father reading a newspaper (1866). Consider the simplicity, directness and mysteries of these paintings against the moralizing and endless intricacies of the Pre-Raphaelites. It is a contrast between the complex and the merely complicated.

Pre-Raphaelite art is a volatile, highly complicated mixture of questionable intentions, literary erudition, ironclad nostalgia, meticulous realism, lavish costumes and a prescient technicolor palette. The brotherhood was formed in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, three disgruntled students at the Royal Academy of Art. Barely 20, they were repelled by the decadence of art and society, much of which they ascribed to the Industrial Revolution.

They wanted to turn back the clock to purer, more thoroughly Christian times, before High Renaissance artists like Raphael started confusing things by adding classicizing Greco-Roman elements to art. They were greatly inspired by the Gothic Revival, spawned largely by the writing and architecture of A. W. N. Pugin, who was by then working himself to death designing and building the neo-Gothic Houses of Parliament. (He died in 1852 at the age of 40.)

The three founding artists formed a nucleus with Ford Madox Brown, a slightly older proto-Pre-Raphaelite painter, and later, Edward Burne-Jones. They produced some of art’s most overwrought paintings in terms of emotion, narration and craft. Conjuring a world where women, whether chaste or fallen, dead or alive, are impossibly beautiful, these works laboriously spell out tales from the Bible, Shakespeare, English poetry, mythology, world history and Arthurian legend, striving nearly always to impose a supremely male-dominated sense of morality. They pile symbol upon symbol, detail upon detail and bright color upon color until the eyes beg for mercy. Does Rossetti’s rendition of the wedding of St. George and Princess Sabra really have to include the dragon from which he rescued her, dead in a coffin with a spear through its head?

At once hysterical and inert, these paintings are fascinating as artifacts, period pieces reflective of their time. If you want a clear idea about what was rotten as opposed to enlightened about Victorian England, look no further.

This is the largest Pre-Raphaelite exhibition in several decades, and its eight densely filled galleries are close to exhausting. Although Millais, Holman Hunt, Rossetti, Brown and Burne-Jones made about 50 of the paintings here, the show includes works by nearly two dozen other painters and a few photographers, including Julia Margaret Cameron.

One gallery is devoted primarily to the designs of William Morris, another late joiner, who went on to found the Arts and Crafts movement. It contains medieval furniture painted with medieval scenes by Burne-Jones and two immense tapestries depicting the quest for the Holy Grail designed by Burne-Jones and woven in Morris’s workshops. Along with one devoted to landscapes and close-up images of nature, this gallery is the least oppressive in the show.

Elsewhere many of the landmarks of the movement are on hand. Some are quite famous, like Millais’s depiction of Shakespeare’s drowned Ophelia, a pale dark-haired lovely floating in a stream beside a grassy bank whose plants are exhaustively accounted for. Equally well known are the portraits of sultry, big-boned russet-haired beauties, usually based on Jane Burden, Morris’s wife, and possibly Rossetti’s lover. There’s also the show’s over-the-top finale, Holman Hunt’s “Lady of Shalott” (1888 to 1905) with its ponderous gold frame, swirling hair and embroidery thread and hot pinks and blues — a late work that would probably be a national treasure were it owned by a British museum instead of an American one.

There are also works less familiar to the non-British, like Millais’s “Christ in the House of His Parents,” a light-bathed depiction of Mary tending to Jesus after he cuts himself while helping Joseph in his carpentry shop, the bloodied scratch on his palm foreshadowing the stigmata.

When first exhibited this painting stirred outrage for depicting Jesus as a gawky child in humble working-class circumstances. This helped put the Pre-Raphaelites on the map, as did their shockingly bright color, inspired by medieval stained glass.

When it made its debut at Tate Britain in London, this show was bluntly titled “Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde.” Perhaps the title was dialed back for non-British audiences, but the mission remains, in the words of the catalog, to establish the Pre-Raphaelites as “an avant-garde movement” whose efforts in numerous mediums “constitute a major contribution to the history of modern art.”

That the Pre-Raphaelites rebelled against their own time and introduced a hyper-realistic style does not necessarily make them avant-garde. They didn’t radically rethink painting as Manet, Cézanne or van Gogh did; inspired by photography, they just made it more precise, often extraordinarily so. And they had only a minor interest in being “painters of modern life,” to use Baudelaire’s phrase. Rather than embracing the people, fashions and activities of their time, as their French contemporaries did, they escaped into fantasy.

The Pre-Raphaelites were most modern in their treatment of landscape, which they rendered en plein air in advance of the Impressionsts (but not before Corot or Constable). Sometimes they even populated these works with people in contemporary dress, like the family gathering seashells in William Dyce’s 1858 “Pegwell Bay, Kent — A Recollection of October 5th 1858” or the boy and girl lounging on a hillside in Brown’s panoramic “English Autumn Afternoon, Hampstead — Scenery in 1853,” whose view of London in the distance even intimates the modern city.

But unlike the Impressionists or the Cubists the Pre-Raphaelites did not stop art in its tracks, even if they were admired by Picasso during his Blue Period, Salvador Dalí and Wassily Kandinsky. Nor does it explain much to note that the art historian Robert Rosenblum capriciously likened the busy composition and shallow space of Holman Hunt’s mawkish “Awakening Conscience” (1853) — in which a kept woman sees the light of salvation and rises from the lap of her lover — to the allover skeins of Jackson Pollock’s abstractions. The same goes for speculation that the last big Pre-Raphaelite show at the Tate in 1984 may have influenced the emergence of the Young British Artists in the late 1980s.

But all this is small beer. The Pre-Raphaelites’ influence is far more widespread than that of most art movements. You can see it in the aesthetic movement Symbolism, Art Nouveau and modern design (thanks to Morris); in children’s books and Photo Realism; and in all kinds of contemporary art. Examples include Tom Uttech’s dreamlike views of wilderness (on view through Saturday in a terrific show at the Alexandre Gallery on 57th Street in Manhattan), Ellen Altfest’s detailed yet painterly realism, Ron Mueck‘s disturbingly lifelike sculptures, Mark Greenwold‘s intricately twisted narratives and the equally finicky if more surreal images of Anj Smith.

Tracing things in another direction the Pre-Raphaelites seem to have made some of the first so-bad-it’s-maybe-good modern art. Fighting Victorian decadence with more Victorian decadence, they may also have contributed to the onset of kitsch. Cézanne and Manet are great artists, necessary to many people’s lives, but when you start to look around, the Pre-Raphaelites are everywhere. That’s why this show is so hypnotic. The badness at its core is completely familiar; it permeates our lives. Looking at these paintings you can see it all coming: Maxfield Parrish’s jocular King Cole mural at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan; the visual platitudes of Norman Rockwell and Walt Disney; the hallucinatory brightness of psychedelic posters, the sugary scenes of Thomas Kinkade and the heavy-handed neo-medievalism of countless movies and television shows, most recently “Game of Thrones.”

The Pre-Raphaelites built one of the cornerstones of popular culture. Like kitsch itself their art is radioactive; for better and for worse its influence never goes away, it only spreads.

“Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848 to 1900” is on view through May 19 at the National Gallery of Art, on the National Mall between Third and Seventh Streets NW, Washington, (202) 737-4215;
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 30, 2013

An art review on Friday about “Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848 to 1900,” at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, misspelled the surname of an artist whose work was cited as an example of the kitsch to which the Pre-Raphaelites may have contributed. He was Thomas Kinkade, not Kincaid.

1 comment:

goetzkluge said...

Among the works less familiar to the non-British, you mentioned Millais’ “Christ in the House of His Parents”. But even for the British there still may be something to discover in the painting. -- Regards from Munich in Bavaria, Goetz