Beata Beatrix

imageI have avoided writing too much on the Pre Raphaelites as 1. I am a complete bore about this subject and 2. there are much better blogs than mine out there on the subject but as I am off to Liverpool for their PreRaphaelites: Beauty and Rebellion, I couldn’t resist adding my favourite Rossetti oil painting to the blog.

The original Beata Beatrix (Blessed Beatrice) is in the Tate. Completed in 1870, Rossetti put onto canvas his feelings about his late wife, Elizabeth Siddle. The painting shows Bestrice at the moment of her death with the red dove symbolising the passing of a life and the white poppy related to Lizzie’s death by laudanum poisoning.

Rosstti was asked to replicate the painting and this photograph is of the one in the Birminam Museum & Art Gallery, which is naturally my favourite! Here the colour of the dove and poppy is reversed and there is a scene of Florence in the background where Dante and Beatrice met. The painting was unfinished at the time of Rossetti’s death and it was finished by his friend, Ford Madox Brown.

There is an irony here in that while Rossetti used this ideal representation of love to show his love for Lizzie, it is interesting to think I’ll be seeing another representation of Beatrice today in the form of Jane Morris in Salutation of Beatrice.  Perhaps love is not everlasting after all!

For more on the story of Dante and Beatrice:




Rock Drill deconstructed…again

Ahead of its appearance at Walsall New Art Gallery in September, Birmingham’s reconstructed Rock Drill has been, erm, deconstructed.

See how that took place here:

Jacob Epstein on Rock Drill: “I made and mounted a machine-like robot, visored, menacing, and carrying within itself its progeny, protectively ensconced. Here is the armed, sinister figure of today and tomorrow. No humanity, only the terrible Frankenstein’s monster we have made ourselves into…”

Love is Enough – Andy Warhol and William Morris at Birmingham MAG

I was a little sceptical of this as I found it difficult to see the connection.  I really like Jeremy Deller, so had faith that he would deliver something special here.

I am in two minds about this exhibition.  Aesthetically, I can see the connections.  Deller said that he was looking at how politics, aestheticsm business models and iconography overlap and I quite agree.  Both men were astutely aware of how art connected with these key areas but where I had a problem was with the artwork itself.

Throughout the exhibition, the comparison art works placed Warhol next to artists linked to Morris, rather than with Morris directly.  The section headings were well thought out: Camelot, Hopes and Fears, Fears for Art, A Factory it Might Be, and Flower Power.  However, with the exception of Flower Power which put Morris’s wallpaper designs up against flower works by Warhol, the other sections used Rossetti and Burne Jones as the comparisons.

Having said that, it was wonderful to see Burne Jones’ Holy Grail Tapestries again and I so adore DGR that I will give anything just to see his work, so who am I to complain when I get what I want!

The entrance to the exhibition had the cleverest pairing I have seen: Warhol’s Joan Collins and Gabriel’s La Donna Della Finestra.  If you just compare the gaze and head tilt, it is quite astounding.  But, apart from the fact that it is Morris’s wife as muse, what is the connection to Morris?

(c) DACS/ARS; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationDante_Gabriel_Rossetti_-_La_Donna_Della_Finestra_(The_Lady_of_Pity)_-_Google_Art_Project

Having explored Warhol last year at Tate Liverpool, I wondered if I would see anything new in his works here.  I did appreciate the Camelot section as, although at first I thought the links a little too tenuous, on reflection, Warhol’s obsession with celebrity does resonate with the way the Pre Raphaelites obsessed over the Arthurian legends and the ‘celebrities’ within those stories.  The pieces linked to the Kennedys were worth seeing.

What did disappoint, was that William Morris was not just “an English textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist.” as detailed by Wikepedia, but he was an artist too, and it would have been lovely to see La Belle Iseult, and more of the stained glass that he designed with Burne Jones.

Overall, it was worth seeing the individual pieces, but I did struggle with the concept.  I am going to a talk that Jeremy Deller is giving and I would not be surprised to get the ‘penny dropping’ moment during that!

Oh, and this is my 50th post!


Where it all started

Three works of art stand out from my childhood as every summer, we would be taken to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Two of them: the-blind-girl-1856The Blind Girl by Millais and The Last of England by Ford Madox Brown, Last of Englandsparked my imagination and started my passion for Pre-Raphaelite art.  I would rush to see the two of them so I could make up new stories for them and this is the reason why children should be in art galleries.

The third piece of art involves this young lady: Ships head  We have a history.  As we would go round the museum, on our way to the T-Rex on the top floor – that’s another story – I would always stop to say hello to this ship’s head.  There was no card to say where she had come from or anything to do with her history, but I was fascinated by her: the colour of her dress and the pearls gleaming in the dim light of the museum corridor; her slight smile and elaborate hairstyle was very attractive.

One day, I went back for a nostalgic wander around the galleries and went up to where she lived.  She was no longer there – neither was the T-Rex  and as he ended up in the skip, I did worry about what could have happened to her and felt sad that I would never see her again.

How wrong I was.  Having bought membership to the Tate, I decided to take advantage of the free entry to go and look at their exhibition on British Folk Art; not my cup of tea really., but we all love a bargain.  As I perused the exhibit, it led into a room full of Ship’s Heads. The size of some of these took your breath away – incredible pieces of carving.  But for me there was only one in the room – my lady!  folkart1 I couldn’t believe that she was there and that she looked so good considering that it was about 35 years since I’d last seen her.  Can’t say I was in such good nick!  Perhaps the secret is several coats of clear varnish2014-08-23 14.30.38!