Thursday, March 01, 2007

Introducing Waterhouse and the Pre-Raphaelites

The Lady of Shalott (1888)
John William Waterhouse (1849 - 1917)
Oil on canvas (image 153 x 200 cm)
Tate Britain (Presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894)

The Fine Line Artists Art Project for March is, at least for me, an introduction to John William Waterhouse and the Pre-Raphaelite Movement. That surprised you didn't it!
Waterhouse's legacy had been somewhat neglected for most of the 20th century: his art, along with that created by many of his contemporaries, fell rapidly out of fashion as a result of the impact of World War I and the subsequent changes in British society over the ensuing decades. However, in the late 1960s/early 1970s there was a gradual revival of interest in Victorian and Edwardian art which has been sustained to the present day. Waterhouse was honoured with a retrospective exhibition in 1978, and has been the subject of two monographs published within the last five years, the most notable being Peter Trippi's award-winning J.W. Waterhouse (Phaidon Press, 2002). Nowadays, several of Waterhouse's paintings, for example The Lady of Shalott (1888) and Ophelia (1894), can be ranked among the most recognizable, and beloved, of 19th century British art. (extract from the website - the art and life of John William Waterhouse)
Maggie absolutely adores his work and I haven't got a clue about him. However I do know a teeny weeny little bit about other artists who were part of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood - and you may know some of these names, especially if you're English. The first three were instrumental in founding the movement and the remainder have been associated with it:
A quick review of some sources suggests that, broadly speaking, the Pre-Raphaelites wanted to get away from the 'classical' style of academic art (after Michelangelo and Raphael) being taught at the Royal Academy Schools at the time and wanted to return to the abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions of Quattrocento (the fifteenth century) period of Italian and Flemish art. Having seen some of the latter first hand in the National Gallery in London and in Italy (by artists such as Piero della Francesco and Fra Filippo Lippi) I can readily see why such sort of stance might be very attractive.

I've no idea at the moment what my artistic output for this project will be. I think I'm probably going to be adopting an art historian/detective's hat for this month and will be aiming to find out more about the different groups and what principles they adhered to - and any aspect which particularly interests me. For example, I've always been a big fan on William Morris and the Red House where he lived is near where I live and is home to the Arts and Crafts Movement that he founded - which derived from the Aesthetic Pre-Raphaelitism group.

I've bought a book to help me out. It's called J.W. Waterhouse and is written by Peter Trippi and is published by Phaidon. It's got some great reviews on Amazon - particularly in relation to providing information about the context of the art movements of his time. Peter Trippi is currently the Editor of Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine and has previously been Director of the Dahesh, the only institution in the United States devoted to 19th and early 20th century European academic art.

I've started to make a list of some links below - and take this as being part of my initial reading list rather than I've read all of these in detail. For those interested in Waterhouse, the most important of these is the website set up as an appreciation of Waterhouse. Take a dip and see if you find anything which takes your fancy. You may need to make a big mug of the hot drink of your choice first and Maggie's supplying the cookies!

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  1. It is a testiment to the sheer force of my passionate love for Waterhouse's work that I managed to steamroller Katherine into this! Believe me, she's not easy to steamroller!

  2. Wow, I say BRAVO to the subject/style, and hats off to you Katherine for diving into the unknown! I can't WAIT to see what you do with this one. It's always *such* a pleasure to come visit your blog. :-)


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