Friday, 21 October 2011

Victorian Faerie History - Part II

I have Bill to thank for introducing me to the work of the Pre-Raphaelite artists.  I'm sure I'd some some of their paintings here and there, but I never identified them as a particular style and I didn't know anything about the specific artists.  I can't claim any particular expertise even now, though we did sit down and watch a television programme that explained what they were all about.

Basically they were rebels, turning away from the prescriptive style then taught at the English Academy of Art.   Their art initially shocked, as it was very realistic and natural.  They also broke many of the accepted rules about what characteristics were expected of a work, rules that do seem quite rigid now.   In any case, some of their paintings are incredibly beautiful.

The programme also discussed their personal lives, their models, their wives, other people's wives, their wives' sisters, sex partners and even unconsummated marriages.  It was all a big soap opera, which is moderately interesting, but I'd prefer to look at their paintings.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) was a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  One of his main models was Jane Burden Morris, wife of William Morris - another member of that society.  Morris is perhaps most famous for his wallpaper designs and for providing the Mission Statement for Unclutterer's.  You know that one? 

Rather than try to explain about faeries and the Pre-Raphaelites, I shall leave you with this wonderful post by someone far more expert on the matter. 

Veronica Veronese by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), AKA Charles Dodgson, of course wrote books such as Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.  They belong to the genre called 'literary nonsense'!  I read both books as a child, but I can't say I cared much for them.  I found the complete unpredictability of Alice's stories to be rather upsetting; they didn't amuse me, they made me nervous.  I think I like order and predictability far too much to lose myself in nonsense (irrespective of what this blog leads you to believe).  Dodgson/Carroll hung out with the Pre-Raphaelites and whilst his Alice books aren't exactly faerie tales, they are certainly a form of fantasy.  You may or may not recall, I've written about this man before.

Now we come to a long list of illustrators and painters, some part of the Pre-Raphaelites, then they are associated with the Arts and Crafts movement, and then the Art Nouveau.   Actually, these links are even better - to the images of Arts and Crafts and of Art Nouveau. 

The following names from the Sunderland museum exhibit "The Truth about Faeries" are all people who were born in the Victorian era, though some of them are of quite contemporary fame, that is, Bill and Vivien have both heard of them.

Arthur Hughes (1832-1915)  was a painter, illustrator and a member of the Brotherhood of the Pre-Raphaelites.  He illustrated many of George MacDonald's books. 

Ophelia by Arthur Hughes

Walter Crane (1845-1915) was a prolific illustrator of children's books, interested in the Pre-Raphaelites' work, but also the Arts and Crafts Movement and he is associated with British Art Nouveau.  Definitely a man after my own heart, then.    (Note to self:  some of his work is in the Manchester Museum - go see it!!!).

Book Cover by Walter Crane

E. Gertrude Thompson (1850-1929)  was a friend of Lewis Carroll and illustrated his first book, originally titled, The Nursery "Alice"

Jessie Macgregor (c. 1850s - 1919) was born into a family of painters and studied at the Schools of the Royal Academy in London.  Some of her paintings show a Pre-Raphaelite influence. 

In the Reign of Terror by Jessie MacGregor

Heywood Sumner (1853 - 1940) was an illustrator and naturalist,associated with the Arts and Craft Movement.  The detail of his work is breathtaking.

Illustration from A Guide to the New Forest by Haywood Sumner

Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) of course gave us Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.  What I hadn't realised was that he was an Edinburgh physician who basically had no patients and so had lots of time to write.  He was also interested in faeries and spiritualism - as many people were at the time.  This interest may have be due to the loss of a wife, a son, a brother, two nephews and two brothers-in-law, a toll that may have been difficult to accept.  He wrote a book, The Coming of the Fairies and was very much involved with the story of the Cottingley Fairies, about which more later.

Lawrence Housman (1865-1959) was an illustrator, writer and playwright, who turned more towards the latter occupations when his eyesight failed.  His illustrative style is considered to be Art Nouveau.  I'm enjoying writing about these people in part because I'm finding more amazingly beautiful weblogs, like this one.

From Jane Barlow's The End of Elfintown

Herbert Cole (1867 - 1930)  was another illustrator whose work included The Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.  I could have shown you a really sweet illustration  of The Three Bears, but I couldn't resist choosing this one instead, about "the fruitlessness of earthly vanities and the inevitability of death".  It's called 'The Critic'.  I think Bill's love of Terry Pratchett is perhaps rubbing off on me.

Arthur Racham (1867 - 1939) is apparently a well known illustrator and many bloggers have dribbled on about how much they love his work, much as I'm doing here.  One site mentioned how his illustrations were highly popular after the death of Queen Victoria, because they helped keep the scary modern world at bay.  I understand that perfectly.

Girl Beside a Stream, by Arthur Rackham

Edward L. Gardner (1870-1970), oddly enough, has no Wikipedia page, in spite of being involved in story of the The Cottingley Fairies, part of which he captured in his book, Fairies:  A Book of Real Fairies.  The bigger picture is a rather daft story about some photographs taken in 1917 by a couple of young girls which were subsequently taken up by none other than Arthur Conan Doyle and raised a certain amount of interest - and skepticism.   Although both Vivien and Bill were born long after this story took place, they were both aware of the event.

W. Heath Robinson (1872-1944) wanted to be a landscape painter, but then realised that book illustrating was much more lucrative.  He did a lot of cartoons, some of which look quite Art Deco to me, but the range of his talent was quite wide.

Estella Canziani (1887-1964) was not only an artist, but an interior decorator, a travel writer and a folklorist.  Wikipedia notes that she lived all her life at the family home at 3 Palace Green in the Kensington Palace Gardens, now known as 'billionaires' row'.  I can only guess that real estate values have changed significantly, as her mother was another artist and her father an Italian civil engineer. 

With the exception of this bookplate, I can't say I like her work that much.

Dorothy P. Lathrop (1891 - 1980) was an American author and illustrator of children's books.   I can't say I recognise any of the titles of her books, written largely in the 1930s.  Her art looks fairly modern to me.

From Walter de la Mare's Book of Fairies

JRR Tolkien (1892-1973) of course wrote The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  He was a student at Oxford in the 1920s and later a professor there.  His biography on Wikipedia is both touching - he lost both of his parents by the age of 12 -and amusing, as he really does come across as a man dragged unwillingly from his time into the present.  He enjoyed the financial rewards of his writing and wished he'd retired earlier, but at the same time was not happy about becoming a cult figure in the counter-culture of the 1960s.  I think of him as an impressively erudite and imaginative man, but also a bit of an old fuddy-duddy as well.  What a hoot.

Cicely Mary Barker (1895-1973) was an English illustrator of children books best known for her 'flower faeries' or perhaps her alphabet fairies.  Vivien was pleased to see Barker's works on the wall, as she had enjoyed them as a child.  I must admit they look quite familiar to me, so she must have been published widely in the U.S. as well, though I don't recall having any of her books.    

She is said to have been influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

My mom taught me my numbers and letters by drawing a character around each form.  She added hats, shoes, moustaches, aprons, etc., to make them each a personality that would help me remember them.  I'd completely forgotten this until I was taking algebra in high school and was completely flummoxed by the idea of doing math with letters.   I just knew I was going to flunk the class and I guess all the worry made me dream about these early lessons.  Somehow after I'd had the dream about the number 8  (a nanny in a tightly tied apron) and the number 9 (a gunslinger with a Stetson and a gun on his hip), algebraic equations finally clicked in my brain and I really enjoyed them!

Tomorrow (eventually...these posts take a long time to write!) I'll finish this series with a few 'modern' artists, one of whom I suspect was the driving force behind the whole exhibit at the Sunderland museum.

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