The Pre-Raphaelite Society Founder’s Day Lecture - “Collecting the Pre-Raphaelites: Peter Rose and Douglas Schoenherr” Presented by Donato Esposito
Online / Sat 23rd October 2021
Collecting the Pre-Raphaelites: Peter Rose (1927-2020) and Douglas Schoenherr (1945-2020).
2020 was a year that shook the world with a major pandemic; it was also the one that took two collector friends in Brighton and Ottawa. United in their dual love of the Pre-Raphaelite and anything Victorian, Peter and Douglas exemplified a type of collecting and way of life that is very unusual now. Formed without great financial resources, nonetheless each amassed several hundred artworks from the period 1850-1900, which for the most part each left to their favourite public collections, both in Canada and Britain. This lecture, studded with personal anecdotes, compares and contrasts these two very different collectors.
Donato Esposito is an academic and curator who specialises in 18th and 19th-century art, collecting and taste. From 1999 to 2004 he worked as Curator in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum and he was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2012-13. His monograph Frederick Walker and the Idyllists was published in 2017.
If it were not for the curiosity of Rudyard Kipling’s American guest, one of his most famous poems - "Recessional" - might have been lost to history.
Sara Norton, daughter of respected Harvard professor Charles Eliot Norton and family friend of the Burne-Joneses, was visiting the Burne-Jones home in Rottingdean in 1897, where Rudyard - Edward Burne-Jones’s nephew - was working on a poem for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
He was, the story goes, unhappy with his first attempt, and threw it into the wastebasket. Sara (or Sally as she was known) retrieved it and, along with Kipling’s wife Caroline and his “Aunt Georgie”, persuaded him to complete it. He cut two stanzas, added a few lines and submitted it to the London Times, where it was published on the same page as the Queen’s proclamation in the Diamond Jubilee issue.
Rudyard gave the original page to Sara, and added along the edge “Written with Sally’s pen – R.K.” At the end of the manuscript Kipling also added: “Done in council at North End House, July 16. Aunt Georgie, Sally, Carrie, and me.”
The original sheet that Sally rescued from the trash was a treasured item in the Norton family, and passed to Sara’s sister upon her death in 1922. It was then presented to the British Museum in 1937 by Stanley Baldwin (another Burne-Jones nephew) at the Norton family’s request.
Margaret Burne-Jones (left) and
Sara “Sally” Norton, 1890 (detail)
In the early twentieth century, modernist writers and artists reveal a significant familiarity with Pre-Raphaelite poetics and visual art. At a time when Pre-Raphaelitism is often considered to have been out of fashion, the Pre-Raphaelites were still very much of interest, being discussed, written about, their literary works read and re-read, and their artworks exhibited and used as a point of reference by modernist writers and artists. Hannah’s talk will explore some of the modernist interactions and engagements with Pre-Raphaelitism and how it shaped their work.
Hannah Comer is an independent scholar. She obtained her PhD in English Literature from the University of Birmingham in 2020. Her thesis looks at the Pre-Raphaelite legacy in Modernism. Her research on Lawrence, the Pre-Raphaelites and Persephone was included as a chapter in Defining Pre-Raphaelite Poetics (2020).
This talk gives a new perspective on one of the most haunting Pre-Raphaelite images ever created. Considering the painting through the prism of ‘the phantom flower’, Julie Whyman uncovers new research and shares, for the first time, the scope of her new methodology for interpreting flowers in Pre-Raphaelite art.
Awarded the John Pickard Essay Prize by the Pre-Raphaelite Society for her essay ‘Four Flowers and a Funeral’ (2017), Julie Whyman has a PhD from the University of York with her thesis - Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Language of Flowers (2019). She gained a distinction in a Master of Studies in Arts and Literature from the University of Oxford with her dissertation - Exposing the Lily: Decoding Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Sacred and Profane (2015) and published Sacred Profanity: Decoding the Lily in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s ‘The Blessed Damozel’ in Vides (2015); the University of Oxford’s annual volume of interdisciplinary essays. She is currently publishing a series of short essays on www.pre-raphaeliteflowers.com, engaging with Pre-Raphaelite flower enthusiasts around the world. Since its launch this year the site has attracted visitors from more than 55 countries.
Of all the various romantic entanglements that the Pre-Raphaelite artists found themselves in, the tale of 17-year-old Euphemia Gray marrying the respected John Ruskin and eventually falling in love and marrying the handsome young artist John Everett Millais has proven to be the most attractive to writers and dramatists in recent years, resulting in several stage plays, radio plays, operas and two BBC TV series – including the 2014 film Effie.
Interestingly, the first telling of the Ruskin-Effie-Millais story on film came in 1912, from the Vitagraph Studios in New York. They produced a silent, single-reel film (about 15 minutes long) entitled The Love of John Ruskin - now sadly lost. It starred Leo Delaney as Ruskin, Earle Williams as Millais and Helen Gardner as Effie. In this early telling, Ruskin “surrenders his wife to a friend”, even acting as best man at the wedding. As the magazine Motion Picture World put it, “Congratulating them and bidding them a fond farewell, he remained a friend to them always, retiring to his home lonely and sad.” Reviews of the day seemed to focus as much on the morality of the story as the movie itself: “It is unfortunate that the Vitagraph has at least suggested, if it has not actually portrayed, the brazen libertine and his equally heartless paramour in their shameless assignations,” the review says, “flaunted almost in the face of the trustful, unsuspecting husband.”
Left: Helen Gardner, the first film “Effie”, star of the 1912 film The Love of John Ruskin
Right: Leo Delaney, who played the role of Ruskin
Edward Burne-Jones on Nature:
Physical and Metaphysical Realms
by Liana De Girolami Cheney
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
This volume studies some of Edward Burne-Jones's paintings, focusing specifically on his approach to nature, both through his observations about the real, physical world and through his symbolic interpretations of earthly and celestial realms. Burne-Jones's appreciation for natural formations grew from his interests in astronomy and geography, and was expanded by his aesthetic sensibility for physical and metaphysical beauty. His drawings and watercolors carefully recorded the physical world he saw around him. These studies provided the background for a collection of paintings about landscapes with flora and fauna, and inspired the imagery he used in his allegorical, fantasy, and dream cycles about forests, winding paths, and sweet briar roses.
This study focuses on two main ideas: Burne-Jones's concept of ideal and artificial or magical nature expressed and represented in his drawings and paintings, and the way in which he fused his scientific knowledge about nature with some of the symbolism in his paintings.
In 1876 American writer Justin McCarthy observed, “We have now in London pre-Raphaelite painters, pre-Raphaelite poets, pre-Raphaelite novelists, pre-Raphaelite young ladies, pre-Raphaelite hair, eyes, complexion, dress, decorations, window curtains, chairs, tables, knives forks and coal-scuttles. We have pre-Raphaelite anatomy, we have pre-Raphaelite music.”
It seems the Victorians have truly begun to infiltrate the contemporary music world. From classical to cutting-edge, there are several musical ensembles performing today that are named for notable characters from the Victorian era.
Take, for example, the Rossetti String Quartet. Currently in-residence in Kansas, the quartet - two violins, viola and cello - have been praised as a “vital force among chamber music ensembles,” renowned for its sensual sound and extensive range of colors. In their promotional material, they explain the name this way: “Co-founded in 1996, the Rossetti String Quartet is named after 19th century Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, whose artistic ideals about the use of color, poetry, and naturalism are embodied in the Quartet’s musicianship.” They have performed internationally, and a review in the Washington Post declared “The Rossetti’s tone had a sensual finish, and its phrasing practically palpitated with ardor and mystery.” Not unlike the artist-poet himself, one might say.
Then in England we have another classical group, The Ruskin Ensemble, founded in Sheffield and named after the eminent critic John Ruskin (no explanation offered). They are known for their themed programs, sometimes performing in period dress, and have appeared at the Brighton Fringe Festival.
Now we come to the most recent entry, Pre-Raphaelites. No “The”; just “Pre-Raphaelites.” Listed in music sites as Indie/Pop/Rock, Pre-Raphaelites’ instrumentation features a glockenspiel and ukelele among the more common guitars and drums.
One last musical reference: writer/lecturer Dinah Roe was surprised to discover a reference to D. G. Rossetti in a 1976 issue of Playboy Magazine. When interviewer Cameron Crowe asked David Bowie about the inspiration for the eye-catching English cover art for The Man Who Sold the World (1971), David Bowie replied: ‘Funnily enough, and you’ll never believe me, it was a parody of Gabriel Rossetti. Slightly askew, obviously.’
Edward Arthur Fellowes Prynne... there are two sides to this artist. On one hand he was an accomplished traditional portrait artist whose work was commissioned by notable lawyers, MPs and even His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, for a portrait which was presented to Queen Victoria. On the other hand, his bold psychedelic canvases take us on visionary journeys through biblical stories or arresting moralising scenes of symbolic figures. Despite success in his own lifetime, Prynne’s beautiful work is largely unknown today. Join Sarah Hardy for an in-depth retrospective of Prynne’s life and work in this online lecture.