Sunday, July 25, 2021

Found (For A Picture) painting and sonnet by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Found A Study for the Woman's Head - Woman's Head With Eyes Open. Hair Straight, Unlike In The Finished Study. Birmingham Museum. 1853-1857.

Study in for Found, black and brown ink and wash with white heightening on paper. Signed with monogram DGR and dated 1853, Birmingham Museum. 

 Was Elizabeth Siddal the original model for Rossetti’s painting, ‘Found’? 

These two drawings look very much like Lizzie dated 1853 Birmingham Museum.

Rossettis poem Found (for a picture) dates 1848-1881 from Sonnets and Fragments by DGR (bound manuscript Volume). Princeton University.

In the end, the model in his oil painting of Found was Fanny Cornforth his housekeeper. 

Found by Dante Gabriel Rossetti was Designed 1853; begun 1859; unfinished, oil on canvas, Delaware Art Museum, USA

Found  (For a Picture.) By Dante Gabriel Rossetti 

“There is a budding morrow in midnight:”—

So sang our Keats, our English nightingale.

And here, as lamps across the bridge turn pale

In London's smokeless resurrection-light,

Dark breaks to dawn. But o'er the deadly blight

Of love deflowered & sorrow of none avail

Which makes this man gasp and this woman quail,

Can day with from darkness ever again unite take flight ever again grow light?

Ah! gave not these two hearts their mutual pledge,

10Under one mantle sheltered 'neath the hedge

In gloaming courtship? And alas O God! to-day

He does but only knows he holds her;— and but what part

Life Can life now can take? She cries in her own locked heart,— in her shut heart

“Leave me—I do not know you—go away!”

Friday, July 23, 2021

Rossetti's Portraits: Upcoming exhibition at The Holburne Museum 24 September 2021 to 9 January 2022


Blue Silk Dress (Jane Morris), Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1868 © Society of Antiquaries of London: Kelmscott Manor

Rossetti’s Portraits features some of his most iconic artworks, including The Blue Silk Dress (Jane Morris), 1868, which reveal the artist at the height of his creative powers, alongside his less well-known, but equally compelling early drawings of friends, family and fellow Pre-Raphaelite artists. The exhibition also explores the artist’s intimate relationship with his muses and their influence on his depiction of beauty.  Extract from Holburne Museum website

I have been working on Mrs. Morris's portrait and have nearly finished it. I think it is better than the run of my doings. Dante Gabriel Rossetti letter to Alice Boyd of 24 July 1868.

Combining paintings, drawings, and photography from across the artist’s career, including some of his most celebrated and accomplished works, Rossetti’s Portraits opens with drawings of his early social circle, including members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood during the early 1850s. Extract from The Holburn Museum website.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s portrait of William Holman Hunt was sketched on the morning of 12th April 1853

As young artists starting their careers, ambitious to ‘make it’ in the art world, the Pre-Raphaelites frequently practised drawing each other to improve their observational skills, as well as saving money on models. These drawings were often created out of mutual affection and were exchanged as gifts. Rossetti’s portrait of William Holman Hunt was sketched on the morning of 12th April 1853 as one of several portraits created by the group to send out to Thomas Woolner, a Pre-Raphaelite sculptor who had emigrated to Australia to try his luck on that continent.  Extract from The Holburne Museum website

The Blue Bower by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1865
The sitter is Fanny Cornforth, Rossetti's housekeeper and mistress.
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts

Cornforth is the focus of one of Rossetti’s masterpieces, The Blue Bower (1865, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts), a painting infused with symbolism relating to the sitter. The blue cornflowers refer to her surname, while the passion flowers suggest her fiery nature. Indeed, the work has the feel of a character study; Cornforth commands the spectator’s gaze, as if to challenge their observation of her beauty.  Extract from The Holburne Museum website.

Elizabeth Siddal drawn by Dante Gabriel Rossetti,
May 1854, in Hastings, V&A

The next section features a selection of intimate and poignant drawings from the 1850s of the artist’s wife and pupil, Elizabeth Siddal (1829–1862), showing the many facets of their relationship as a couple, as artistic peers, and as artist and model.

Famous for posing in John Everett Millais’ Ophelia (1851-52, Tate), Siddal modelled for several Pre-Raphaelite artists before sitting exclusively for Rossetti from 1852 onwards. Alongside her work as a model, Siddal pursued her own artistic interests and was the only woman to exhibit at the 1857 Pre-Raphaelite display at Russell Place. Rossetti made a series of beautifully intimate studies of her carrying out everyday tasks and the works displayed at the Holburne allow visitors to see the daily life that ‘Lizzie’ and Rossetti shared together. Siddal frequently suffered from ill-health and a drawing he made of her during a stay in Hastings where they had gone for her to recuperate from the latest bout of illness features in the show. Siddal died tragically in 1862 aged only 32.  Extract from The Holburne Museum. 

For more information about the exhibition, The Holburne Museum

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

A review of Muse - A Victorian love story by Kristin Lundberg

 Muse is now streaming online as part of the Ludlow Fringe Festival in the United Kingdom until July 18th.  The link to the fringe website will appear at the end of this review. To watch this beautiful play starring the playwright herself, Kristin Lundberg as Elizabeth Siddal with the brilliant Greg Pragel as Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Based on a true story and set in 19th century England, this Victorian romance opens with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a painter of sensuality -- famed for founding the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which revolutionized fine art -- remembering Elizabeth Siddal, his model, his MUSE...his greatest passion. What follows is a kaleidoscope of memories - both passionate and painful.

Siddal was chosen as the model for John Millais famous painting of Shakespeare's “Ophelia” and, at the insistence of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, she became the embodiment of grace and beauty being immortalized in paintings and living a life that not even she could have dreamt of.

Through Rossetti’s story, we follow his journey working with the brotherhood of artists as they produce canvases reminiscent of medieval paintings. MUSE embodies the explosive struggles of his relationship with Lizzie, his muse, his model and later, his artistic competitor.

I am Dante Gabriel Rossetti, I am Dante Gabriel Rossetti...

Are you aware of how terrifying it is to lose complete joy and focus over what one knows so well?

You have scorched every partition in my brain with your beauty. Your image is always there.  Why can't I paint it?
My muse. My idyllic angel. 
I never wished for you to be left alone. 
You were my everything. You were my Aphrodite. 

Please forgive me.  I beg of you. 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti tells his love story in narrative flashbacks emoting moments of rage, agony, tragedy, guilt, and remorse on stage. Greg Pragel as Rossetti shares  funny and charming moments with muse, Elizabeth Siddal played by Kristin Lundberg. Rossetti paints her in various literature and poetic scenes on canvas. They spend a lot of time together and eventually having so much in common painter/teacher to muse/student inevitably become girlfriend and boyfriend. It sounds childish I know but you must remember that Rossetti and Siddal were real human beings and their story is one of love, lust, art, and tragedy. 

As with artistic couples, Greg Pragel and Kristin Lundberg flesh out the human flaws, weaknesses, and characteristics of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddal. At the time of their meeting, Rossetti was the established painter of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Although, he struggled with acceptance from his brethren and counterparts as well as his own insecurities. What he found in his love, his muse, his Beatrice, was a more than equal partner and artist in her own right. Go Lizzie! You see, as their relationship flourished, so did Elizabeth Siddal's talent for drawing and painting. I don't want to give anything away but let's just say that Rossetti's fragile ego took a bit of a hit, poor guy. 

They don't understand. The other models. 
They don't understand. About art. 
 I see shapes and colors in poetry. They see nothing. 
They shame me for it. Painting Tennyson's words in fantastical imagery. 

Mrs. Tozer found a sketch which I thought I had hidden. She tore it up in front of me. Every rip was a tear to my heart. 

It's exhausting. Fighting for what you love. 
Fighting for what you know. 
When no one believes who you are and can't stand what you're bound to become. 

When Greg Pragel and Kristin Lundberg are on stage together they portray the characters of  Rossetti and Siddal with such humor between them its wonderful. Their conversations are so enchanting. You have captured the real people as you envision them as couple, artist and muse. 

I am reminded once more of how fragile life can be. Dante Gabriel Rossetti lived and breathed his passions and in the end he lost himself to the tragedy of what was to befall Elizabeth Siddal.  As for Elizabeth, she always knew she was talented, she always knew she wanted to be more than noticed for her beauty. What I don't believe she may have realized was that her life was to be terribly brief. 

A very bold and impressive move made by Director, Jay Michaels was juxtaposing Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Greg Pragel) on stage going about his life while Lizzie Siddal is away in France with Ruskin. Kristin Lundberg as Lizzie Siddal enters the theatre from the rear talking and interacting with the audience.

Kristin Lundberg has written a beautiful love story. Muse is filled with such humor and even though there is sadness it is tinged with poetry and painting. Who knows maybe that's exactly what Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddal were hoping for! 

NOTE:  The photograph is really Dante Gabriel Rossetti as is the image of Elizabeth Siddal.  The text next to both, in red font,  are from Muse written by Kristin Lundberg. 

YOU HAVE FIVE DAYS LEFT. Please do not miss this opportunity to watch, Muse, streamed online for a very affordable ticket price,  Ludlow Fringe Box Office

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