Saturday, August 28, 2010

Four Modern Pre-Raphaelites

I usually try to interchange between one visual artist and one animator in my posts, but since I'm on the topic of Pre-Raphaelites I thought I might as well quickly mention four other Pre-Raphaelite painters whose images have inspired me throughout my life. I suppose technically they should all be called "Modern" Pre-Raphaelites since none of them were actual members of the Brotherhood, and because they adopted more of the later aesthetics of the movement, but their works are all unmistakeably Pre-Raphaelite in style (*note, the above photo is of the "original Brotherhood" as portrayed in the BBC mini-series Desperate Romantics).

Sir Frederic Lord Leighton

The first modern Pre-Raphaelite painter whose works I admire is Sir Frederic Lord Leighton, born in Scarborough, England, in 1830; lived in Russia for a time, and studied art in Florence, Rome, Frankfurt, and Paris before moving to London where he met the Pre-Raphaelites. He became President of the Royal Academy in 1878, and was knighted that same year. Eight years later he would become a Baronet and was given a peerage, the only English artist to ever receive such an honor. Unfortunately his poor health only allowed him to enjoy that honor for one day.

Heart of Snow

The Fisherman and the Siren

A Roman Woman, La Nanna

Leighton is most well known for Flaming June (below), and it's no wonder why; the curve of the sleeping woman in tangerine with her hair falling loosely about her creates such striking forms and visually rich textures.

I've also fallen for Invocation (below); how illuminated and angelic the woman is, her face crowned in a halo of brilliant white. She is commanding and inviting at the same time.



The second Pre-Raphaelite of note is Edward Robert Hughes. Born in England, 1851, Hughes was actually the nephew of Arthur Hughes, another Pre-Raphaelite, and was assistant to William Holman Hunt, one of the original founders of the Brotherhood. Instead of oils, however, Hughes primarily used watercolors and gouache ("gwash"), which helped him to achieve the twinkling glow found in many of his works (*note, the above photo is of Hughes' Uncle, Arthur).



I'm really dying to try gouache actually. Apparently it acts like watercolors in that it is water soluble, has the look and feel of watercolors, and can be painted on watercolor paper or simple card stock, but unlike watercolors it can be painted over dark without any hint of underlying color showing through, and it creates very rich tones in just one layer. Sounds like a dream come true!

The Valkyrie's Vigil
In the Grass

Hughes' most well known painting is probably, A Midsummer Eve (below). Okay, this piece has always captured my imagination! The paint itself is luminescent, the glow pure magic. Isn't that exactly how you'd imagine the summoning of faeries and wood nymphs on a balmy summer's night? I thought so.

A Midsummer Eve

I also hold a special place in my heart for Dream Idyll (below), only because it is the exact representation of a childhood story my friend and I created, The Lost World of Shanta. The Pegasus was named Indigo, and an unfortunate maiden named, Autumn, fell through the clouds onto his back. In time their love would cause the unicorn, Shanta, to transform him into a human.

Dream Idyll


Sir Frank Bernard Dicksee

The third painter is Sir Frank Bernard Dicksee. Born in London, 1853 (this all seems like an exclusive, English-gentleman's club doesn't it?), he was instructed by his own father who was a painter himself. Young Dicksee entered the Royal Academy of Arts (like Waterhouse) at the tender age of 17, and achieved early success. He eventually became President of the Academy (like Leighton) in 1924, and was knighted (like Leighton) the following year by King George V.

The Mirror

The Offering

I really love Dicksee's style, there's something very "flowery" and elegant to it. It reminds me of the illustrations of Kinuko Y. Craft, whom I will post on later. :) His most famous image is probably the one below, La Belle Dame San Merci, which is like something out of a fairy tale.

La Belle Dame San Merci

The knight is clearly enraptured by the damsel's beauty, her red mane flowing, her cheeks like blushing roses; she desires to steal a kiss to thank her kind sir for his noble deeds, and how could he refuse? It amazes me how a rigid, old Englishman such as Dicksee could tap into the imagination of a pre-pubescent girl so well. :)

Romeo and Juliet

The End of the Quest

Dicksee's themes seem to focus on pairs of passion; the suitor and his maiden, the lady and her knight. One example is Hughes' romantic portrayal of Chivalry (seen below) in times past. Of course this image is a little taboo by today's post-feminist standards, but I think deep down inside all women (well, straight women at least?) have a secret desire to be rescued, or have their honor defended--whatever that may be--by their lovers.


Dicksee also seemed to have a fondness for music, and often portrayed it's melodious beauty in connection with the beauty of a refined woman.


The Duet


The Two Crowns

"How modest, kindly, all-accomplished, wise,
With what sublime repression of himself,
And in what limits, and how tenderly;
Not swaying to this faction or to that;
Not making his high place the lawless perch
Of winged ambitions, nor a vantage-ground
For pleasure; but through all this tract of years
Wearing the white flower of a blameless life,
Before a thousand peering littlenesses,
In that fierce light which beats upon a throne,
And blackens every blot: for where is he,
Who dares foreshadow for an only son
A lovelier life, a more unstained, than his?"



Edmund Blair Leighton

The fourth and final Pre-Raphaelite painter of note (but certainly not least of all) is Edmund Blair Leighton (another "Leighton"), born in London (of course) in 1853 (like Dicksee). His father, Charles Leighton, was a very talented artist (like Dicksee's father) who exhibited several works during his short career, but unfortunately died when he was only 32, leaving his 2 year old son Edmund without artistic guidance.

A Little Prince in Likely Time
to Bless a Royal Throne

Edmund Leighton, it would seem, would follow in his father's footstep's regardless of his absence, and even the disuassion of his family. Leighton eventually attended the Royal Academy (like Waterhouse and Dicksee), and exhibited his works there for over 40 years, but unlike Frederick Leighton, Dicksee, and Waterhouse, he never became an Academian or an Associate.

The Keys

My Fair Lady

Leighton never kept diaries so there is not a great deal of detail known about his life, however he did eventually married Katherine Nash in 1885, and they had a son and daughter; he exhibited annually at the Royal Academy; and he was an avid collector of old musical instruments, art, and furniture.

Stitching the Standard

Lady Godiva

Leighton was probably most well know for his paintings: The Accolade, and God Speed! (seen below) which I have adored since I first saw them in Middle School. Even though they are highly romanticized and kind of remind me of one of those pro-war propaganda posters from the 40's, I still love them.

The Accolade
God Speed!

In fact, for mine and my future-husband-to-be's first year date anniversary 6 years ago I made a watercolor reproduction of God Speed switching my face for the lady's and his for the knight's, and altered the lady tying a red cloth to handing him a lace handkerchief. I thought the title was fitting since he would be away on God's errand for two years. Then I cross-stitched our initials on a lace handkerchief just like those the ladies of olde would give to their knights as a favor. Cheesy, I know. Love makes us all fools. Here is my version of the painting in watercolors. Don't make fun, I know it's not that great. :p

My Reproduction of God Speed!

Just as Leighton scraped off and altered The Accolade moments before it was taken off to an exhibition, I too messed up on the faces of my painting to the point where I had to scratch off the watercolor surface and repaint them; fortunately for Leighton canvas is much more forgiving for scraping off oil paints than paper is for scraping off watercolors. :)

Tristan + Isolde

I suppose it's fitting I should find such love-struck inspiration in Leighton's pieces, for his greatest abundance of work depicted chivalry and highly tender moments between couples, principally set in Regency and Medieval periods.


A Stolen Interview



His themes of great passion often culminated in images depicting the greatest symbol of love forever after, marriage.

Signing the Registry

A Call To Arms

Leighton's popularity remains as strong and timeless today as it was in the height of his day, his scenes still highly sought after in reproductions.


"Good night, good night!
Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night
till it be morrow."


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