Karen Elson’s Pre-Raphaelite Inspired Music Video “The Truth is in the Dirt on the Ground”

Fashion model Karen Elson is making her foray into the music business with her new album The Ghost Who Walks. She recently released the album’s first music video, for the track “The Truth is in the Dirt on the Ground.” The video is chock-full of Pre-Raphaelite references. There are numerous allusions to Pre-Raphaelite paintings here – I was particularly reminded of Waterhouse’s Ophelia (because of the Queen Anne’s Lace) and his Lady of Shalott (of course, parts of it are also quite reminiscent of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”). With her vibrant scarlett locks, Elson has long been described as a Pre-Raphaelite beauty – I’m glad to see that she’s embracing the label in her new music video! 

Apparently, the song was inspired by an obituary for Eartha Kitt. I did a little digging around, and it looks like Elson was referring to a quote from the New York Times obituary for Kitt: “I’m a dirt person…I trust the dirt. I don’t trust diamonds and gold.” 

The song is quite catchy, and the sound, which her husband, Jack White of the White Stripes, describes as “folk country gothic” is very appealing. I’ve been humming it ever since I saw the video this morning. 

A special thanks to Grace from The Beautiful Necessity for posting the video on her blog!

J.W. Waterhouse Garden of Enchantment

A new exhibit of J.W. Waterhouse’s work will be held at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from October 1, 2009, to February 7, 2010. The exhibit will feature the largest-ever retrospective of works by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917). J. W. Waterhouse: Garden of Enchantment will be the first large-scale exhibition of Waterhouse’s work since 1978, and promises to be the first expo to focus on works from throughout his lengthy artistic career.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts will have at least eighty works of art, on loan from public and private collections throughout the world. Garden of Enchantment will also feature a number of Waterhouse’s sketches in oil, chalk and pencil (many of these works have not been seen in public since Waterhouse’s death). The exhibition has been organized by the Groninger Museum, the Netherlands, with the collaboration of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibition, which premiered at the Groninger Museum, will also be presented at the Royal Academy of Arts (June 27 to September 13, 2009), and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (October 1, 2009, to February 7, 2010).

It sounds like Garden of Enchantment will be a fabulous exhibit. I would desperately love to get a chance to see these works in person!

For more information, visit The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts website

John William Waterhouse Exhibit in Montreal

The Montreal Museum of Fine Art has just announced an exhibit of John William Waterhouse’s work, set to open this fall.

The exhibit will run from October 1, 2009 through to February 7, 2010. The show was organized by the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands, with participation from the Royal Academy of Arts in London and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. It is expected to be the largest collection of his work ever on display, with paintings gathered from public and private collections across the globe. A number of the works have not been seen since Waterhouse’s own lifetime.

I’ve been so excited by the recent increase in Canadian exhibits focusing on Pre-Raphaelite and Pre-Raphaelite related artists. Now, if only they’d do one in Edmonton! (Perhaps when our new Edmonton art gallery opens?).

For those of you living in the UK (or lucky summertime visitors), the exhibit can be seen at London’s Royal Academy of Arts from June 27 – September 13, 2009.

Image: Penelope and the Suitors, John William Waterhouse, 1912

Possessed: Announcing a New Pre-Raphaelite Musical!

What do you get when you combine Pre-Raphaelite art, an infamous love affair, and music? Possessed is a new musical that examines the life of Jane Burden, from her discovery by Dante Gabriel Rossetti to her meteoric rise to become one of the most popular and iconic models of her age, almost omnipresent in the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites, particularly those of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Possessed focuses on the relationship between Jane, her husband William Morris (“Topsy”) and Rossetti. The full cast also includes Bessy, the Morris’s housekeeper, Lizzie Siddal, Mr. Carter (the foreman of Morris & Co.), and Jane and William Morris’ two daughters, Jenny and May.

Playwright Teresa Howard became inspired to research Jane’s story following a William Morris exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum back in 1996. For Possessed, Howard (who has written a number of other plays) has teamed up with composer and arranger Steven Edis, who has written and arranged music for numerous theatre and television productions.

Not surprisingly, art plays a central role in the production. During the course of the musical, stained glass windows depicting the tale of Tristan and Isolde are constructed on stage, symbolising the close relationship between art and life and alluding to the link between the story being played out on stage and the story of Tristan and Isolde.

The musical was presented on April 27 at the Oxford Playhouse and was a great success, generating a great deal of interest in the project. Hopefully full scale production of the musical will begin at the end of next year…I can’t wait!

To learn more about this production, visit the The musical’s official website. For up to the minute news and information, visit their blog, Putting it Together.

Rehearsal photo of Anna Francolini as Jane Morris and Joseph Millson as Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Rehearsal Photo by Charles Girdham © 2008, reprinted with permission of Teresa Howard

Greek Vase from British Museum depicting Ulysses and the Sirens

In Greek mythology, the Sirens were depicted as creatures with the heads of women and the bodies of birds. The Sirens lived on an island and lured unwary sailors to their rocky shores with their songs (Virgil V, 846; Ovid XIV, 88). They feature prominently in the tale of Ulysses/Odysseus and also of the Argonauts (you will recall that it is Orpheus who saves the Argonauts from the sirens by playing his own tune, whereas Ulysses takes a more direct approach–plugging his sailors’ ears and having himself tied to the mast).

This red Attic vase from the British Museum (ca. 480-470 BC) is thought to have inspired John William Waterhouse’s painting of Ulysses and the Sirens. There are a few differences, for example Waterhouse shows 6 Sirens in his painting, whereas this vase appears to only depict 3 (I have not seen the vase myself, so I’m not sure what’s shown on the opposite side). But after examining the two pieces a little more closely, I think it’s undeniable that Waterhouse used the vase as inspiration for his artwork.

You can tell from this close up that although Waterhouse has chosen to update the Sirens’ hairstyles, he has copied their body shape directly from the vase. Likewise the form of the boat and the oars certainly evokes the style depicted on this piece of pottery. You’ll also notice that they eyes that decorate the boat are common to both renditions.

images courtesy wikimedia commons.