Pre-Raphaelites in The City: Painting

Dinah Roe

The Usual Suspects: Reviewing the Reviews of A Victorian Obsession The Pérez Simón Collection at Leighton House Museum

Victorian Obsession, the new exhibition at Leighton House, has once again turned modern critics into Victorian ones. As I have banged on about elsewhere, (HERE and HERE) today’s critics uncannily (and perhaps unconsciously) echo the opinions of their nineteenth-century Royal-Academy-loving forebears in expressing their distaste for the childishness, vulgarity and escapism which they see as characteristic of Pre-Raphaelite artists and their followers.

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Bros With Mos Celebrate Movember With a Tribute to the Pre-Raphaelite Moustache

As some of you may be aware, it is officially Movember, the month during which men grow moustaches to raise awareness of prostate and testicular cancer, and of men’s health in general. You can support and find out more about this great cause HERE. ‘Pre-Raphaelites In the City’ applauds this movement’s effort, both on the grounds of compassion and aesthetics. Victorian facial hair was a wonder to behold, and we will probably never see its like again. In a spirit of tribute, I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate the noble Pre-Raphaelite soup-strainer.

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Preraphsrule On LitBits Podcast In Which I Discuss Art, Literature and the Pre-Raphaelites With Most Distinguished Podcasters

The erudite and irreverent folks at LitBits, a podcast billing itself as ‘somewhere between the pub and the seminar room’, recently invited me on to discuss the topic ‘Literature and Art.’ As you’ve probably guessed, I talk at some length about Pre-Raphaelitism. The podcast’s delightful hosts not only made me feel very welcome, they also made me think about art and literature in new ways. And I hope you’ll have the same experience. Click HERE to listen. You can also download this podcast as an MP3. And while you’re on their site, why not listen to them discussing literature ‘from odd and surprising angles’ with a fantastic lineup of guests, including an advertiser, a chef and a poet (among many others)!

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Pre-Raphaelite Haters Then and Now A Critical Heritage

If the Pre-Raphaelites were still around today, they would no doubt be thrilled to find that they are still causing a stir. A quick peek at the ‘Comments’ inspired by the recent Observer online article about the upcoming Tate Pre-Raphaelite Exhibition reveals that viewers are as divided as ever about the significance of Pre-Raphaelitism.

The debate the young upstart Brothers intentionally started about contemporary art in 1848 still rages today. Then as now, while some people enjoy the unsettling beauty of the bright Pre-Raphaelite colour palette, others are put off by the movement’s eroticised depiction of women and heavy-handed symbolism. Still more are unhappy with them for not being French Impressionists.

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Which Highgate Grave Was Once Owned by Holman Hunt?

During my recent talk on the Rossettis at Highgate Cemetery Chapel, Andrew Yeo (Cemetery guide,  volunteer and IT expert) rescued me from certain technical failure. He also shared with me a Pre-Raphaelite connection to Highgate Cemetery which I’d like to pass on to you. The Blount monument, located on the way up to the Egyptian Avenue, was once owned by original Pre-Raphaelite Brother William Holman Hunt.

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‘The Last Pre-Raphaelite’ Exceeds Expectations at Christie’s Frank Cadogan Cowper's Our Lady of the Fruits of the Earth

While the Christie’s New York auction of Liz Taylor’s jewellery grabbed all of last week’s headlines, I was more interested in some of the Pre-Raphaelite gems on show at the Christie’s London auction of ‘Victorian and British Impressionist Art’. One artist who inspired some furious competition was Northamptonshire’s own Frank Cadogan Cowper. Estimated at £150,000 - £250,000, his Our Lady of the Fruits of the Earth (1917, above) went for £469,250, a record-breaking price for Cowper’s work. In a complex, efficient choreography, assistants ferried most of the paintings in and out for display. But throughout the auction, Cowper’s work remained on the wall above a phalanx of smartly attired men and women taking phone bids. The painting was beautifully lit, showing off its bright colours and ornate frame to full advantage.

Perhaps it was to this work that Peter Brown (Director in Victorian Pictures) was referring when he breezily told me that some items had done ‘better than expected.’ British understatement at its finest, I suspect.

Cowper is sometimes referred to as the ‘Last Pre-Raphaelite’. The painter is clearly borrowing from a Pre-Raphaelite colour palette, but what other Pre-Raphaelite influences are detectable?

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Top 5 Pre-Raphaelite ‘Waterlogged Maidens’ Which one tickled Joe Queenan?

Humorist and Pre-Raphaelite hater Joe Queenan recently wrote an article about the benefits of laughing at paintings in museums. Leaving aside the merits and demerits of his argument, I was interested by his singling-out of ‘Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s waterlogged maidens’ for ridicule. What struck me was that I was unable to identify which paintings Queenan meant, and after a brief search, it became clear that Rossetti didn’t paint any waterlogged maidens. Unless I am very much mistaken, which I’m willing to admit.

Aside from Burne-Jones, I couldn’t think of many Pre-Raphaelite painters who were consistently interested in watery scenes. But I did come up with these top 5 paintings. Which one do you think Queenan was thinking of / laughing at?

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Pre-Raphaelites in the City

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This blog explores the thriving Victorian cities which inspired the Pre-Raphaelites, and were shaped by them in turn. While the Pre-Raphaelites produced poetry and art praising the natural world, most were born and raised in urban environments, and their work retained a cosmopolitan sensibility. Although this blog will sometimes take excursions into the countryside, its focus will remain on city life. If you want more information on images or sources, please get in touch.