The Cult of Beauty…and clutter

The December issue of Vogue Magazine US contained a lovely editorial about the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Cult of Beauty exhibit, which will be coming to San Francisco in February of 2012. The Vogue spread featured the lovely Saoirse Ronan decked out in full Pre-Raphaelite regalia set against a variety of PRB-inspired backdrops. Grace from The Beautiful Necessity did a nice write up of it here.

While the editorial was lovely, I stood there in Chapters for a moment contemplating whether or not I would buy the issue. As I thumbed through the magazine, I ultimately decided to pass it up.

I have a problem with magazines. They take up valuable real estate on my bookshelves, and once I’ve bought one, it can be tough to part with, because I reallly do enjoy looking through them. That’s why I love blogs so much – there are so many fabulous writers out there, many of whom are also great photographers, and if you want to return to a post, it’s easy to do and doesn’t require cluttering up your home. I’m also a fan of magazines on the iPad for the same reason (Vogue has an iPad app, but it doesn’t include full digital versions of the magazine).

Do many of you still buy magazines? I haven’t bought them in years, except for Vogue’s September issue, which I try to recycle promptly. It might sound a little extreme, but I hate to bring clutter into the house, especially at Christmas time, when there is so much other stuff competing for attention. Maybe it’s just a phase, but right now I have very little nostalgia for print magazines. They seem a little like relics of a bygone era.

Florence + The Machine, The Band Perry and the Lady of Shalott in Music Videos

Today I thought I’d share a video from Florence + The Machine. My husband actually made me sit down and watch the video because he noticed all the mythological and Pre-Raphaelite references! We first encountered Florence + The Machine while watching the Colbert Report, and our first reaction (other than noticing that she had a great voice), was that she looked like she’d fallen out of a Pre-Raphaelite painting. Apparently this is no coincidence, and you’ll notice that most of her videos contain references to the Pre-Raphaelites, though the video for “Rabbit Heart” is one of the most overt. From the minute you see the water behind her you can tell this is going to end in a send-up of the Lady of Shalott!

For an even heavier dose of the Lady of Shalott, check out The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young”. My daughter actually discovered this one on Vevo the other day!

Someone from the band is clearly a big fan of the Pre-Raphaelites! Of course Lady of Shalott is the most obvious reference (the video actually closes with a shot of Tennyson’s poem), but I thought the scene at :38 (with the mother at the window) was a little evocative of John Everett Millais’ Mariana. It’s a very well done video, and the song is beautiful as well.

It’s all about perspective…

It’s fascinating how perceptions of art change over time.

As you may recall, the Pre-Raphaelites were so named because they rejected the Royal Academy’s unquestioning devotion to Raphael’s style of painting. There is still some question as to whether the Pre-Raphaelites were primarily focused on rejecting Raphael himself (less likely), or whether they merely disdained the Academy’s insistence that they ape the Rapahel-like style of painting. Either way, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood rejected slavish devotion to the artistic heroes of the past, and Raphael was one of the most obvious targets.

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, 1515 is a perfect example of what irked the Pre-Raphaelites about Raphael. It is unquestionably a lovely work, but also seems a tad insincere. The subjects are posed in an unnatural way, and their grand gestures seem a bit overwrought, though you have to love the fellow on the far right who seems determined to show off his abs and bulging triceps. But on the other hand, Raphael’s work was also dignified, beautiful and graceful, which is doubtless why the Academy used him as a standard example for their students.

Of course, it’s ironic that one of the chief contemporary criticisms of the Pre-Raphaelites is that their work is chocolate-boxy and picture-perfect (the shoe is on the other foot now, eh?). I’m sure most members of the PRB would be stunned that their work, once so controversial, is now decried as downright twee (in the future will we look back on the work of the Young British Artists and think of their work as cute? That’s a scary thought…).

Stimulating…or saccharine?

Over time, I have grown to appreciate (and often prefer) contemporary art, and although I still enjoy the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, I probably wouldn’t display it in my home. From my perspective, the work of the PRB is an important part of art history that was very influential for generations of artists (whether they want to admit to it or not), and I love to study it. But I wouldn’t like to see artists today imitating the style of the PRB or – for that matter – the style of any other artists or historical period.

What do you think? Would you like to see the artistic style from one of your favourite historical periods come back in fashion? Or do you prefer to keep the past in the past?

Ford Madox Brown Exhibit this Fall at Manchester Art Gallery

From Saturday, September 24, 2011 – Sunday, January 29, 2012, Manchester Art Gallery will be running a major exhibition of the works of Ford Madox Brown. Over 150 of Brown’s works will be showcased, including well-known works such as Work (shown above) and The Last of England.

The exhibit will pay special attention to Brown’s role in the Pre-Raphaelite movement and highlight his unique methods. Fans of the Arts and Crafts movement will be pleased that, in addition to his paintings, Brown’s forays into furniture and stained glass will also be featured.

If you miss the Manchester venue, the Museum voor Schone Kunsten in Ghent, Belgium, will also be hosting the exhibit from February 25 – June 3, 2012.

Ford Madox Brown: Pre-Raphaelite Pioneer will be curated by Julian Treuherz, an independent art historian and curator who specializes in Victorian art.

The exhibit catalogue will be available both online and in the museum giftshop, so even if you can’t make it to Manchester, you’ll have the chance to experience it.

For more information, see the Manchester Art Gallery’s website.

Image courtesy Wikimedia

Special thanks to Philip Ebbrell for bringing this to my attention!

The Poetry of Drawing: Pre-Raphaelite Designs, Studies and Watercolours

Those of you living in the UK (or visiting) are in for a real treat this month. From January 29, 2011 to May 15, 2011, The Birmingham Museum is hosting what promises to be “the largest survey of Pre-Raphaelite drawings and watercoulours ever staged.” The museum has assembled works Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery‚Äôs world-class collections, together with important pieces from public and private lenders, including some works by D.G. Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and Edward Burne-Jones that have never previously been exhibited. The exhibit, entitled The Poetry of Drawing, will place special emphasis on the important role that drawing played in the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

The Poetry of Drawing will include pieces from the most prominent members of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, including all the original members of the PRB, Elizabeth Siddal, Edward Burne-Jones, Frederick Sandys and Simeon Solomon. Later artists, such as Aubrey Beardsley, who were influenced by the Brotherhood are also included, as are the Arts and Crafts contributions of William Morris, William de Morgan and Florence Camm.

For those of you who are unable to attend, the exhibition’s curator has created an illustrated volume entitled Pre-Raphaelite Drawing. The book will be published by Thames and Hudson. I would love to see this exhibit in person, but if I don’t get the chance, I will definitely be looking into the catalogue!

For more information and ticket prices, please visit the Birmingham Museum’s exhibition website.

Image above is William Morris’ sketch for his Trellis wallpaper design.