Lecture: ‘Marginal Masculinities?: Regional and Gender Borders in William Bell Scott’s Wallington Scheme’

A lecture by Dr. Rosemary Mitchell entitled ‘Marginal Masculinities?: Regional and Gender Borders in William Bell Scott’s Wallington Scheme’ will take place on the 19th of July at 11am at the Birmingham & Midland Institute, Margaret Street, Birmingham.

This analysis of W.B. Scott’s eight Wallington paintings argues that the choice of male figures from Northumbrian history questions both the nature of Borders history and the character of performances of masculine identity and achievement. The choice of Bede, Cuthbert, and Bernard Gilpin as subjects emphasizes cultural and religious achievements (of both border communities and border men), validating those who preferred a miminal existence and obscurity over worldly advancement and national prominence. Rather than being seen just as uncivilised and violent frontier region, Northumbria is constructed as an arena for genuine social, and spiritual progress. This will be linked to W. B. Scott’s own sense of marginalisation within the Pre‑Raphaelite art world and his quest to shape a viable identity as pictor ignotus, and of the significance of his work at Newcastle as the first master of its School of Design.

Dr Rosemary Mitchell is a Reader in Victorian Studies and Director of the Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies at Leeds Trinity University. She is also associate editor of the Journal of Victorian Culture, and a member of the steering committee for the British Association of Victorian Studies.

For further details relating to the event mentioned above please email info@Pre‑Raphaelitesociety.org.

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London and Southern Group Inaugural Meeting

The very first London and Southern Group meeting will take place at the Cittie of Yorke pub (22 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6BN. Google map link.) at 6:30pm Wednesday the 11th of June.

We will kick off with sharing stories of how we came to the Pre-Raphaelites and the Pre-Raphaelite Society, and discussing books we might enjoy for the formation of the book club. The pub serves great food and drinks and we have the space in the cellar bar reserved until closing for socialising.

Contact the organizer Madeleine Pearce (nouveaudigital@gmail.com) if you have any questions. The public Facebook event is here.

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New PRS Regional Group – London and the South

The Pre-Raphaelite Society is pleased to announce the formation of a new regional group, based in London, to accommodate members in London and the South of England. The group will be a chance for current Society members to gather in a relaxed and casual atmosphere to socialise and enjoy activities such as pub meets, a book club, local visits and activities and will be open to all PRS members.

The first meeting will kick off in early June with a visit to a central London pub for drinks, a chance to share how you discovered the Pre-Raphaelites and a short-discussion to decide the first book for the book club. More meetings are planned for 2014, to be announced.

If you are interested, please contact Sharon Peedell-Pandya, PRS Secretary,  (shaznsanj@yahoo.com) or Madeleine Pearce, the new London and Southern Group coordinator,  (nouveaudigital@gmail.com), before April 30th so that an appropriately-sized venue can be chosen.


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Pre-Raphaelite Poetry

ImageThe Pre-Raphaelite Society has published a small book of poems drawn from the entrants to the second Pre-Raphaelite Society Poetry Prize. The poems included are inspired by Pre-Raphaelite paintings, poems and people, and represent the range of inspiration the Pre-Raphaelites provide for poets today. The book’s cover features a new painting by Joanna Gration, called Lizzie and Laura, which was the winner of the 2013 PRS Painting and Drawing Competition.

The book is available on http://www.lulu.com for £3.99 plus £2.99 p&p. Given rising postage costs, it is cheaper for you to buy it direct from lulu.com than for us to bulk buy copies and post them out. We hope you will enjoy the book.

You can find the book here.

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Rarely-seen Jane Morris portrait now on display at the De Morgan Centre

Rarely exhibited Jane Morris portrait now on display at the De Morgan Centreto mark the centenary of her death A
rarely-seen striking pastel portrait of Pre-Raphaelite artists’ model Jane Morris, drawn by Evelyn De Morgan, is now on display alongside Evelyn’s oil paintings at the De Morgan Centre in south-west London.

Jane Morris (1839-1914) was the wife of Arts and Crafts designer William Morris. She played the part of muse and model for a number of Pre-Raphaelite artists including Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti – the latter of which she shared an infamous deep personal relationship with. Jane’s enigmatic, brooding qualities were captured for posterity in Rossetti’s Proserpine and William Morris’ La Belle Iseult, among many others. Though often depicted in her radiant younger years, this portrayal shows Jane in her advanced age. Jane died on 26th January 1914, and the De Morgan Centre is displaying this remarkable portrait to mark the centenary of her death. The portrait was drawn by Evelyn De Morgan, symbolist painter and wife of Arts and Crafts ceramicist William De Morgan. The sketch was intended as a study for Evelyn’s painting The Hourglass (1904-05), in which the
figure contemplates the passing of time and the journey towards death. Although the portrait depicts the ageing Jane Morris with silvery grey hair, in the final oil painting Evelyn has adorned Jane with her distinctive kinked brunette locks. For conservation reasons, Evelyn’s sketches, drawings and compositional studies are not kept on permanent display but are carefully stored and
brought out for special exhibitions; the display of this portrait in the permanent gallery is a unique occurrence. The sketch is displayed on the easel that Evelyn De Morgan used in her studio.

Curator Claire Longworth says, “Drawn circa 1904, the ‘Jane’ in this portrait is a rare, more mature, reflective representation of the iconic pre-Raphaelite beauty that we know so well from Burne-Jones and Rossetti’s images of the 1860s and 1870s.  Her inclusion as one of Evelyn De Morgan’s models is fascinating and an endorsement of the younger artist’s inclusion within the Pre-Raphaelite circle.

The display of this sketch is a fitting accompaniment to the Centre’s temporary exhibition ‘Men in Pants’ which explores Evelyn’s experience of life drawing at the Slade School and throughout her artistic career. This exhibition opens on 7th February 2014. For more information and the press release for this exhibition, please contact info@demorgan.org.uk. The De Morgan Centre will be open until 8pm on 6th March and 3rd April.

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Men in Pants: Evelyn De Morgan’s life drawings

Evelyn De Morgan’s male life drawings from the Slade School onwards from 7th February – 26th April 2014    This
exhibition of Evelyn De Morgan’s highly celebrated drawings and sketches explores her time at the Slade School of Art and sheds new light on the experiences of female Victorian artists.
 Evelyn De Morgan began her artistic career at the Slade School of Art, where she was able to develop her interest in drawing the human body, winning prizes for her life drawing. The
Slade was the first school in Britain to offer female students the opportunity to attend classes in life drawing alongside the traditional
practice of drawing from classical sculptures. While the male life models were partially covered to make the classes acceptable to female students, this remained a bold innovation in art training, attracting much criticism. This exhibition will explore Evelyn’s experience of life drawing and her interaction and engagement with her models. Featuring material from the De Morgan Centre’s archive of drawings, this display of sketches show how Evelyn’s experience of drawing models at the Slade School and beyond
shaped the expressive qualities of her paintings. Her skilful drawings reveal her creative technique and mastery of drapery and composition. Pieces displayed in this exhibition include a remarkable charcoal study of The Wrestlers, created during Evelyn’s time at the Slade School, and unclothed and draped double studies for her oil paintings Boreas and Oreithyia and The Valley of the Shadows. This exhibition provides a fascinating insight into the artistic work of Evelyn De Morgan and the experiences of female artists in the late 19th Century. The De Morgan Centre will be open until 8pm on 6th March and 3rd April. This exhibition will run until Saturday 26th April 2014.

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La Belle Burden – Jane Morris and La Belle Iseult

I’m pleased to be able to offer a blog post by a guest writer, Evelyn Luther, and hope you enjoy it! The subject of Jane Burden is particularly appropriate as it is 100 years since Jane’s death on January 26th, 2014.

imagesLa Belle Iseult is an interesting painting from a Pre-Raphaelite whose painting work is often overlooked. In truth, the paintings of William Morris arguably never had quite the substance of his carvings, illuminations, and craftworks – the intricately realised décor of the room in which Iseult stands reveals the true direction of his talents. Nonetheless, La Belle Iseult is a worthy work, not least in that it is imbued with much of Morris’s interests and emotions. Indeed, painting it was reportedly a difficult experience for Morris as he was crippled by his ardent admiration for the model. Jane Burden, who posed as Iseult for him, was the love of his life and he later married her in a move which would prove quite as emotionally fraught as one would expect from the romance of a Pre-Raphaelite.


Painted in 1858, La Belle Iseult was for many years taken to be a painting of Queen Guinevere. The lady’s queenly demeanour, sombre features, and Arthurian garb were considered in the context of Morris’s The Defence Of Guenevere - published that same year – and the conclusion was drawn that this painting must necessarily depict Guinevere in the height of her emotional turmoils. However, research has since convincingly argued that the painting in fact represents another melancholy Arthurian queen – Iseult, the lover of doomed Tristan. Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur tells of Tristan gifting Iseult a small dog, which she adores and keeps close by her at all times. The painting contains a whippet-like hound curled up in the bedclothes – a detail which argues strongly in favour of Iseult as the painting’s subject, as no dog is ever mentioned as the close associate of Queen Guinevere. Furthermore, the painted queen wears sprigs of rosemary in her hair – an age old symbol of remembrance – while gazing mournfully into a mirror upon which the word ‘DOLORES’ (‘Grief’) is inscribed. Clearly this is a lady lost in grieving memory. Guinevere, while anguished, never suffers from grieving remembrance, yet Iseult goes through such an experience for most of her tale as she remembers and pines for the banished Tristan. A saga involving adoration and adultery is a poignantly apt subject for this, the only easel portrait which Morris ever completed, given his later relationship with the model.

Jane Burden

Jane Burden, pictured here in the guise of Iseult, came from a deprived background but was possessed of a fearsome intelligence and vibrancy which clearly appealed to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. She was ‘discovered’ by Dante Gabriel Rossetti at a Drury Lane untitledTheatre Company performance, which both she and Rossetti attended. Rossetti was struck on sight by her exemplary looks, and brought her into the Pre-Raphaelite circle as one of his models. During this time, William Morris became deeply enamoured of her, although many believe that Burden had long ago lost her heart to the charismatic Rossetti.

Morris and Rossetti

Rossetti, however, was not a good choice of paramour. Not only was he engaged to Lizzie Siddall, he was a renowned womanizer, known to visit prostitutes at a time when the spread of venereal disease was becoming of great concern to the authorities. Indeed, the Contagious Diseases Act clamped down on prostitution with the much publicised intent of cutting down STDs in men (the health of the prostitutes themselves apparently not being of much concern). Jane Burden was no fool. Knowing that it would be a mistake to get too close to Rossetti at this juncture, she tolerated Morris’s bashful advances. Driven to distraction by this enigmatic, enchanting woman, Morris found the experience of painting La Belle Iseult both intoxicating and frustrating in equal measure. He is said to have written ‘I cannot paint you, but I love you’ on the back of the canvas. A year later, the pair were married.

Love Triangle

Jane undertook an education to bring her up to the standard expected of a gentleman’s wife, and she quickly excelled at all she turned her considerable aptitude to. Two daughters were born to the pair – Jane Alice in 1861, and Mary in 1862. For a time, Morris was blissfully happy with his muse. However, some speculate that Burden married Morris simply to remain close to Rossetti. Now that she was inextricably linked to him through bonds of marriage to a member of the brotherhood, she perhaps felt safer in embarking upon an affair with him. This view of things is perhaps casting Jane in too cruel and manipulative light – she was, after all, a worthy, intelligent and capable woman while Rossetti was a compulsive philanderer. Nonetheless, Rossetti at some point began a sexual relationship with his friend’s wife which simmered in the background for decades. Some believe that the two were involved even before their respective marriages. Most agree that the two were embroiled in an affair when Rossetti and Morris took a joint tenancy on Kelmscott Manor in 1871. Jane and Rossetti spent a good deal of time together at this house while her husband was away researching Icelandic sagas. The pair became extremely emotionally as well as sexually close – and they remained good friends even after their affair ended.

untitledTill Death Do Us Part

Jane’s relationship with Rossetti is said to have lasted until she discovered the extent of his drug dependencies – upon which she distanced herself from him sexually, although they remained emotionally close up until his death. By this time, any joy had left the Morris marriage, and Jane was later to admit that she had never loved her husband in the first place. The pair remained married up until Morris’s death – although by this time Jane had engaged in another affair with the political poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt. Jane Morris outlived her husband by eighteen years, dying in 1914 at the age of 75. In 1904 she was painted once more by Evelyn de Morgan. It is a striking portrait, of a lady elderly yet still beautiful. Her dignity and poise is almost palpable, yet there is something of a wistful melancholy in her eyes – an echo of the emotion she portrayed all those years ago when modelling as Iseult for the infatuated William Morris.

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