Dinah Roe

A Pre-Raphaelite Dream Factory

The Victorian era is remembered for its soul-deadening factories, where men, women and children worked long, gruelling hours in hazardous conditions for little pay. But for one Pre-Raphaelite Brother, a Cheapside factory proved an unlikely inspiration; when future painter William Holman Hunt was growing up, a cotton winding factory was his playground. His father was the manager of a warehouse in Dyer’s Court, Aldermanbury, on whose upper floors female ‘winders’ operated noisy hand machines which wound cotton and thread into balls and on reels.

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Virginia Woolf and Holman Hunt go To The Lighthouse

Get out your chequebooks: on Tuesday 22 November, a guestbook from Godrevy Lighthouse in St. Ives goes on sale at Bonhams in London's New Bond Street. The guestbook boasts not only the childhood signature of Virginia Woolf, but also the signature of William Holman Hunt, who was one of her family’s party during their visit on 12 September 1892. Hunt was an old suitor of Woolf’s mother, Julia Jackson, a great beauty. Virginia Woolf’s father Leslie Stephen cattily noted that Holman Hunt married his second wife because of her resemblance to Julia. Hunt was well-known to Woolf’s family: he sat alongside Stephen on the original Committee for The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

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Pre-Raphaelites in Birmingham

I first came to visit Birmingham to celebrate the beginning of my postgraduate studies in 1998. I walked around the city all day, backpack slung over my shoulders, revelling in the city's startling combination of old and new. I had come up from London to see the Edward Burne-Jones exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. I remember buying a small exhibition poster and putting it up in the tiny bedroom at my halls of residence, and wondering when I would return.

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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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Pre-Raphaelite Haters Then and Now

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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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.

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