I went to see the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at the Tate Britain last night.
A late night opening at the Tate makes for a great Friday night out. I don't know what I must have looked like wandering around with my mouth gaping or perpetually smiling... This was the best exhibition I've seen since Van Gogh.
(make sure you have a look at the related articles on this site...on the right of the page)
I've always been a fan of the Pre-Rahaelite brotherhood. But this exhibition is just beyond anything I have seen before. I have found a new love of William Dyce. One of my favourite paintings on display was Pegwell Bay.
This photo or any photo cannot do this painting justice. The use of light and the reflections captured were outstanding. Not to mention the incredible detail of the entire piece. You may not be enthralled with the subject matter but this painting had every viewer's mouth gaping. I just couldn't take my eyes off it.
Another of his paintings showed his amazing talent for detail. Each blade of grass and each stone given their own identity. The quest for "truth to nature" was important to the brotherhood.
As much as I was looking forward to seeing all those wonderfull Dante Rossetti paintings, expressing women's inner beauty and soul, I found the real stars of the show to be William Holman Hunt and Sir John Everett Millais.
Their paintings were so bright and exquisitely detailed. Painted using many layers of thin glazes on a white ground, they were spectacutlar.
Isabella and the Pot of Basil by Wiulliam Holman Hunt was an absolute treat to see.
I couldn't take my eyes off her feet!! Her facial skintones were extraordinary. The opalescence of the watering can...the grain of the wood... the puckering of the quilt and the texture of her dress... wow o wow.
The story behind the painting...
The painting was inspired by a poem by Keats.
It tells of Isabella, a wealthy Florentine whose brothers kill her lover because he was "inappropriate". She kept his head and put it in a basil pot to preserve him and watered it with here tears.
Hunt had arrived in Florence with his pregnant wife on his way to the holy land but was delayed because of an outbreak of cholera. He made well use of his time there!!
His wife died due to complications during childbirth. Hunt returned home with his son and finished the painting a year later. The bereaved face on Isabella becomes more poignant.
It is astounding to see how prolific these artists were. So many huge paintings with so much detail included you'd think would take forever to paint. And then you see a series of 3!! by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones.
The Perseus Series was meant to be 8? paintings. The series was never completed. (not surprisingly) but there are many studies and sketches to be found.
I wish I could go on about the 150 paintings in this exhibition. If you are within 100 miles of London you absolutely must go. The Tate Britain has a small Pre-Rahaelite permanent collection icluding the famous Ophelia. Like the Mona Lisa sometimes it's hard to get a good look at it without peering over someone's shoulder.
So do go if you get the chance. Don't just take my word for it... have a look at a website I found.
"I mean by a picture a beautiful romantic dream, of something that never was, never will be — in a light better than any that ever shone — in a land no one can define or remember, only desire and the forms divinely beautiful." Burne -Jones