Wednesday, 8 June 2011

But is it art.......................the Pre-Rapaelites and why I love them.

Today I thought I would digress from the scrapbooking and talk about something else I love................Art. I was lucky enough to do Study of Art as an O'level at school and we had a brilliant teacher who was passionate about and knowledgeable about his subject. We learnt about the artists as much as the art and how they had lived and worked to produce their work. I remember my first trip to an art gallery in Paris with our group to see the Impressionist paintings. I remember the colour and style and I remember the feeling looking at these pieces of work up close. But it was one particular group of artists who inspired me the most, the Pre-Raphaelites.

The first picture I ever saw up close by a Pre-Raphaelite painter was this one................

This painting is called Ophelia and was painted by John Everett Millais. Most of us know the story of Ophelia's death by drowning in Hamlet but I have never found a painting to be so evocative. When you learn about how Millais painted the picture it gives you insight into the processes and workmanship which went into it. Firstly he painted the actual scenery on location. The one aim of the Pre-Raphaelites, and there were several, was to paint nature and as up close as possible. So they went and painted where the nature was. The colours are always strong and this is because, unlike other painters of the time, they always painted onto a white painted background on their canvases. As for the figure of Opehlia herself, she was a young woman called Lizzie Siddell the wife of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and often model of the artists. She was painted fully clothed in that dress in a large bath of water which was heated from below to prevent her catching cold although she did apparently become ill after this painting was completed. Not surprisingly you might say. If you want to see this painting it is on permanent display at The Tate Gallery in London and covers virtually a whole wall. It is in an ornately decorated frame and you can see so much detail in this picture that the photo does not do it justice.

When I was confimed, I was given this as a picture in a frame. At that age I had no idea who or what it was or what it represented but it wasn't until I was doing my classes that I learned all about the artist Holman Hunt, and the story around it.

The picture depicts Jesus as the light of the world and he is knocking at the door of our hearts. As it says in the Bible......................................

''Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me''.

 Religion and literature played a huge part in the painter's choice of what they painted. However they also painted social issues as well. The Light of the World is meant to be viewed next to this painting............

The young woman here could be responding to that image, her conscience pricked by something outside of herself. She is meant to be the mistress of the man holding her back. Much of the imagery in the painting denotes her fallen status and her position in society.

This painting was not a true Pre-Raphaelite picture in that it was painted by a associate of their group Frederic Lord Leighton. My friends bought me a poster of this painting for my 30th birthday knowing how much I love the Pre-Raphaelites and I wake up every morning looking at her on my wall. She is called ''Flaming June'' and is widely held to be Lord Leighton's greatest work.

Many places have Pre-Raphaelite paintings and also design and furniture. William Morris was a Pre-Raphaelite painter before he designed beautiful textiles and ceramics. Many churches have stained glass windows designed by the painters. I was lucky enough to go to an exhibition several years ago by one of our greatest lovers of this group Andrew Lloyd Webber. The exhibit was amazing. To see so many paintings, and pieces from one man's colllection all in one place was truly inspiring. If you ever get the chance to go and see any of their paintings or other works I can assure you you won't regret it.

I may make this a regular series on artists I love as there are a few. I may even throw in the odd bit of poetry, not my own I might add.

Who are your favourites and would a little series be interesting to you?


  1. great art lesson thank you Jo! Love all your insights into the pre raphelite art era. I am quite a fan of many of the impressionists, I loved seeing Monet's work. I also love the sculptures of Rodin (the kiss is my fave) and I really quite like Chagall looking forward to the next lesson xxx

  2. I love Flaming June! Don't think I've ever seen it before, but I love the colors and shapes. Almost reminds me of Georgia O'Keeffe flowers, if you know what I mean? Would continue to enjoy these kinds of posts.

  3. Thanks for this, Jo! I have an interesting book of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, with some history etc. I recently read some more stuff about them, which was interesting.
    At art college, when I expressed an admiration for their work, I was firmly squashed - they were too "idealistic", not fashionable - the fashion was for non-figurative, or abstract art styles (when they took us to the National, we were dragged straight to an exhibition of Mark Rothko Maroon paintings!) No encouragement to read and find out more - just sarcasm and some ridicule.
    I now know a lot more about the Pre-Raphaelites and can understand some of the negative things that were said about them, by my illustrious Tutors; but in spite of their "limitations" and "privileges" and "failings", I still really like the work of most of the group - and many of their followers, such as Leighton. The attention to detail, imagery and fine colour sense really appeals to me.
    I also like many other artists and "periods" of art - including some Modernist and abstract art/artists. However, I still despise the narrow-mindedness of my college tutors, who ridiculed me for having my own opinions.

    Thank you for this post - it was very interesting. Like Rinda (and I also like O'Keefe!), I would welcome more of this sort of post!

  4. What a great post Jo. I would like to see some more of your art insights again.

    I love Flaming June as well. I have a couple of Pre-Raphalite cross stitches to do and you have inspired me to get them out and make a start.

    Love Lesley xx

  5. I have not studied art before but have a great appreciation of a wide range of work - thanks for this post Jo, I am certainly interested in learning more and seeing these posts over here :-)

  6. Great post! I really enjoyed this and look forward to more. I fell in love with art wandering the Louvre while in Paris and have enjoyed visiting other galleries since!


Hello and thank you so much for stopping by. It is always a pleasure to read the comments I receive and to meet new friends. I try and reply to comments on friend's blogs as much as possible. I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog and look forward to seeing you here again soon. Love Jo xxx