Thursday, May 18, 2023

Opening this Saturday: Pre-Raphaelites Drawings & Watercolours and In the Company of Morris


I’m very much looking forward to previewing Pre-Raphaelites Drawings & Watercolours and In the Company of Morris at the Art Gallery of Ballarat tomorrow evening, ahead of the first day of the exhibitions on Saturday 20 May.

I first came to know and love the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and their contemporaries when I lived in London in the 1970s. 

One of the paintings I remember most vividly from my frequent visits to the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain) is Ophelia (1850-1851) by one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896). In recent years, I’ve developed a particular interest in the women of the Pre-Raphaelite circle, including the model for Ophelia, Lizzie Siddal (1829-1862). Siddal modelled for several members of the group before becoming model, muse and eventually wife to another PRB founder, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). A poet and largely self-taught artist of considerable promise, she was the only woman to exhibit at the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition in 1857. Plagued by ill health, her life was cut short by a laudanum overdose at age 32. I’m excited that Pre-Raphaelites Drawings & Watercolours includes her drawing Pippa Passes. 

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Siddal, Pippa Passes, 1854, pen & brown ink on off-white paper, 23.3 x 29 cm. 

Collection Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

From the Art Gallery of Ballarat website:

In conjunction with the Ashmolean Museum exhibition Pre-Raphaelites: Drawings & Watercolours, In the Company of Morris showcases an exhibition of historical and contemporary Australian artworks demonstrating the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites and in particular William Morris.

William Morris, the Pre Raphaelite polymath, visionary thinker, designer, writer, artist, poet, environmental crusader and social activist, was one of the most important and inspiring figures of the 19th century. He believed in the rights of every individual to improve the world and that good design should be available for all as summed up in his statement ‘I do not want art for a few any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few’. In reaction to the Industrial Revolution Morris argued for a return to nature rejecting mass production and commercialism and championing all things handmade. He imagined a future where the world would have ‘a new art, a glorious art, made by the people and for the people’. Morris championed the beauty of handcraft methods based on medieval craft societies and as an active socialist he promoted the artist or maker being involved in all aspects of an artwork’s manufacture….

In the Company of Morris features work by Louis Abrahams, Janet Beckhouse, Glenn Barkley, George Baxter, Stephen Bird, Frederick Cartwright, Dagmar Cyrulla, Emma Davies, Robert Dowling, HH Floate, Emily Floyd, Cathy Franzi, Web Gilbert, Lucy Hardie, Fiona Hiscock, Henry James Johnstone, Louiseann King, Deborah Klein, Emma Van Leest, Lionel Lindsay, Norman Lindsay, Percy Lindsay, Ruby Lindsay, Marguerite Mahood, ex de medici, Belinda Michael, Ernest Moffitt, Alice J Muskett, Julie Nash, Klytie Pate, Ana Petidis, Elizabeth Pulie, Charles Douglas Richardson, Kate Rohde, Gwen Scott, Bernhard Smith, William Strutt, Philippa Taylor, Kati Thamo, Tiffany Titshall, Christian Waller, Napier Waller, Carole Wilson, Thomas Woolner, Jemima Wyman and Paul Yore.

Pre-Raphaelites: Drawings & Watercolours and In the Company of Morris run from Saturday 20 May to Sunday 6 August.

Pictured top: Exhibition invitation. 

Left panel:  Deborah Klein, Three Women, (Detail), 2021, synthetic polymer paint on linen.

Right panel: Marie Spartali StillmanCloister Lilies, 1891, watercolour and body colour.