Thursday, 16 July 2015

Rossetti painted maidens with eyes like pools.

He painted temptresses and beautiful damoselles, he painted beauties that he wanted to bed.
He was inspired by drugs and alcohol and he was mortified by criticism like a schoolboy would be.
He would let himself down badly by exhuming his wife corpse to retrieve a book of poetry that he had buried with her because he was so overcome with grief.
And then he was not.
His three main muse that he painted were from different backgrounds, one was a prostitute another a wife and the other a wife of one of his best friends, his forbidden love, Jane.
His father was a political radical who had to leave his home town because of his views and the failed uprising of his town in 1820.
He was born in London and took up the modern practice of the time, of being enticed into the past.
The past of Arthurian legends and great Knights doing great deeds by saving damsels in distress.
But he was the son of an exile and his father wanted to return to Italy to rejoin the revolution. He became frustrated.
He rebelled at the Royal academy lacking the patience to study and he joined, along with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais The Pre Raphaelites and they played out their Arthurian ideals. He was named after the doomed poet Dante.
With the formation of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood the rules were simple.
To produce work, through a code of honour spelt out in their manifesto.
To have genuine ideas to express, to study nature, and to sympathise with what was heartfelt serious and direct in past art and produce good art and sculpture.
Before Raphael art is self expressing they proclaimed and they wanted to return to simple art. Flemish art would also inspire them and the fresco painters of the medieval past showed them the way to the future. Rossetti would cross Van Eyk with Botticelli in 'Behold the Handmaiden of the Lord'. The paint was thinly applied and full of symbolic meaning with its claustrophobic set up.
His ideals of women would take him on his own journey, but his critics did not care for the Pre Raphaelites flatness and Rossetti hated them and gave up this style.
Not surprising when you see 'The Childhood of the Virgin' by Rossetti, it is rife for ridicule because it is so average.
Charles Dickens mocked with the idea for a Pre-Gallileo society. Rossetti was paralysed by this sort of critique. The ongoing forces of progress would not stop and all around him the Brotherhood turned away to a purple idealism of romantic Teutonic knights emblazoned with colourful tunics that they reconstructed.
Yet they said they were Pre-Raphael.
Libby Siddel would define the look and Dante found Beatrice in her.
 She worked in a hat shop and modelled for another, for the famous depiction of Ophelia, which was detrimental to her health.
Rossetti wanted her for himself and while Gothic grew up all around him they withdrew into their own style.
His intimate drawings were like sonnets and his moralising scenes like 'Blackfriars Bridge' were contradictory .
“I am thoroughly indisposed to innumerate anyone's condition by means of pictures”.
Fanny Coalforth entered his life while out walking she flicked peanuts at him and she agreed to model for him. His work became erotic and sex became to sell.
“The mouth that had been kissed loses not its freshness as it renews itself as does the moon” he wrote on the back of 'Bocca Baciata' a picture he painted based around an old Italian tale of promiscuity.
He looked to the Renaissance for inspiration and he fed Lizzie with Opium and then married her in 1860. Their daughter was stillborn this haunted him for the rest of his life. He would hear ghostly footsteps from the depths of his soul. Noises from outside the door, footsteps of his daughter.
Lizzie was destroyed by the tragedy and she never recovered from an overdose of Laudanum.
 She never woke up.
In the coffin Rossetti placed the manuscript of his poems and he moved from Blackfriars to Chelsea. He suffered from Insomnia.
 He put together a menagerie with rabbits peacocks and wombats, and other unusual creatures. They regularly escaped. He continued to paint. Fanny became housekeeper model. Her loose hair infatuated him, her hair symbolised looseness and to the Victorians his work sold.
He painted 'Beata Beatrix' showing Lizzies movement from earth to heaven as Beatrice which he ladened with drug induced images that he was not comfortable with.
He painted other versions for his private patrons.
John Ruskin said the work was as course as the prostitutes who modelled for them.
Rossetti then began to write poetry and he wrestled with the fact that he had buried his poems and he then took the disgraceful turn when hired people to dig up Lizzies body and the dirty deed was badly done. He scraped his dirty little bunch of poems clean of putrefaction and put in disinfectant for weeks to quench the stench.
 In my opinion it was sick and unforgivable act, to do this unsettling and disrespectful thing to someone he had loved.
He was then selfishly, as usual, spurned on and was now inspired by Jane Morris.
now understood desire whether it be unrequited, and his expressions opened up through his poetry.
I have to question how genuine were his loves and how much was just plain inspiration to give himself fame and immortality.

James Buchanan said there was no soul in the verse, only body. Ugly bodies of writhing foaming impure art it was said.
The critics said it was impure art from the well springs of impure life. They were right.
He was labelled an adulterer and a libertine and his self worth was hit.
In the poem 'Lost Day' he tried to sum up his paranoia and the lost souls of his mind, and he overdosed on Laudanum.
William Morris turned a blind eye to the help Jane gave him.
Was he mad, would we call him a smack head today.
He was nursed back to health by Janie Morris and William left the country after they took a joint lease on Kelmscott manor.
It was here that they enjoyed an idyllic summer together and he was recharged.
Jane was not daft, she knew what her image meant to her and she posed as 'Prosperine' for prosperity, the supermodel of her day.
She swanned around in long velvet gowns and conjured up this sense of style that would endure through the art of the many Rossetti'an Femme Fatale.
The 19th century was a time of repressed sexuality that he was able to key into using muse to paint with titles such as 'Helen of Troy' or any other historic deity he chose that he could fit his stunning beauties into.

By now his art had nothing to do with Raphael, it was Bohemian London in Style a reinvention of the past for a modern age that now looks so old fashioned to us in the 21st century.
Jane's children strangely called him Uncle Dante and he moved away from Kelmscott and into depression.
He tried to invigorate his art with dancers and brighter callers but a darkness had entered his work, it was where his head was at and he wanted to continue in this vein.
His many patrons, many of whom were based in the Merseyside area where not happy with this lack of cheerful work.
He lived for love and at 53 he died in a quagmire of addiction.
He left behind a legacy of nostalgia and dead end one directional work that went one way down his own street. Some remarkable work.
But he did not provide us with this look into the fields which is where the impressionists took us. He had no desire to get his hands dirty, even for his filthy desecrated poems. But he gives us a glimpse into his own uneasy struggles and desires that were his dream like sequences.
He was too romantic by far he must have studied Byron and myths.
Picasso said he was influenced by Rossetti (and Cezanne!) and the Pre-Raphs.
It was like Gabriel Dante Rossetti was painting his own epitaph for us all to see.
But was it quite warts and all or a carefully selected section of his head played out with style and audacity?
I keep on seeing his work around the museums of Liverpool. There was a major exhibition of his work in 2004, maybe? It seems so long ago now.
 The Death of Beatrice was said by Paul McCartney to be his favourite painting when he exhibited there. (Or when he paid for the privilege by donation). This exhibtion was around the time of Linda's illness.

Most of his high paying patrons were in Merseyside and because Lord Leverhume was an active collector of his work the Lady lever art Gallery, named after his wife, houses many works.

No matter how exotic and sexy his paintings were.

I will never forgive him for exhuming the body of his wife even though most of the critics seem to have done so


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