On the Pre–Raphaelites (Continued)

by Terri Windling

"Bran the Blessed" by Alan Lee

Despite the fact that these third wave Pre–Raphaelites are called the Last Romantics, and despite changing fashions which relegated PRB paintings to musty attics for several decades, a revival of interest in the Pre–Raphaelites in the middle of the 1960s not only brought older works back into public view, but also fostered a new Romanticism in the work of modern young artists.In the 1970s, a group of English artists emerged who openly acknowledged a strong PRB influence — both in their Romantic, enigmatic art, and in their interconnected lives. This acclaimed group of seven artists, called The Brotherhood of Ruralists, includes the painters Ann Arnold, Graham Arnold, Peter Blake, David Inshaw, Annie Ovendon, Graham Ovendon, and sculptor Jann Haworth. Loosely associated with the Ruralists,although not actually a part of that group, are three rural English painters with a strongly Romantic bent to their work: surrealist Patrick Woodruff, master watercolorist Alan Lee, and faery portraitist Brian Froud, all indebted to varying degrees to the PRB. In New York, four artists whose work runs the gamut from gallery prints to comic books formed The Studio, creating narrative art with a distinct PRB influence: Barry Windsor–Smith, Jeffery Jones,Bernie Wrightson, and Michael Kaluta. (Today, Jon J. Muth and Charles Vess are among the artists carrying on the Romantic tradition in the comic book field.) In Boston, as the 1980s began, three young men from the Massachusetts College of Art — Robert Gould, Eric Kimball, and Thomas Canty — created a "New Romantic" style of illustration and book design, changing the look of the fantasy publishing genre in the process.Arthurian myth, Victorian poetry, the paintings of the PRB, and continental Romantics like Mucha and Klimt. . .all these influences are evident in Gould’s cool mystical symbolism, in Canty’s ivy–and–rose strewn designs, as well as in the work of Jody Lee, Dawn Wilson, and other book cover artists. We also find it photography in the work of Linda Bergkvist, in sculpture in the work of Wendy Froud, in children’s books, in the work of artists like Ruth Sanderson and Kinuko Y. Craft, bringinglush Pre–Raphaelite elements to modern fairy tale illustration.

"HeadStudy" by Robert Gould

To learn more about Pre–Raphaelite Art and the men and women behind it, I recommend seeking out the following books. One of the best art books to date is Christopher Wood’s The Pre–Raphaelites, which combines an informative text with an abundance of reproductions in full color. Jan Marsh’s Pre–Raphaelite Women Artists is another handsome picture book (focused more on the imagery of women in PRB paintings than on the women themselves.To learn more about the latter, I recommend Marsh’s study of the group, The Pre–Raphaelite Sisterhood, and Jude Burkhauser’s Glasgow Girls about the women of the Scottish Arts & Crafts movement). Anthony Hobson’s The Art and Life of J.W. Waterhouse is a good volume on this extraordinary painter, while Francis Spalding’s Whistler shows there is far more to this fine artist (who was part of the PRB social circle) than the gloomy painting of his mother.For Burne–Jones and Rossetti, one has quite a number of good books to chose from — although I rather like the handsome Rizzoli editions. William Morris is another whose life and work has been extensively documented, but I particularly recommended Aymer Vallance’s lavish The Life and Work of William Morris and Gillian Naylor’s William Morris by Himself.

"All That I loved is Gone" by Linda Bergkvist

Max Beerbohm’s Rossetti and His Circle, a hilarious book created by the famous cartoonist in 1916, is recommended to PRB connoisseurs; published by the Yale University Press in 1987, one can still find copies through second–hand book dealers. The Last Romantics from Lund Humphries/Barbican Art Gallery is another one available only through second–hand dealers, but well worth seeking out — it’s the most thorough guide yet to the second and third wave of Pre–Raphaelite artists.Nicholas Usherwood’s The Brotherhood of Ruralists is a good guide to the Ruralist artists (still painting and exhibiting in the U.K.); The Studio from Paper Tiger documents the art of Barry Windsor–Smith and his circle in their Studio days, which are, alas, now over.

"Ophelia II " by Graham Arnold

A compilation of Pre–Raphaelite–inspired art created during the last three decades does not yet exist, I’m afraid. Such a guide would have to be lengthy indeed to include the wealth of Romantic work we find around us now in all art forms: from graphic novels to fresco painting, from "doll art" to silver–smithing. Those seven young men who defied the Victorian art Establishment over one hundred years ago have left us a wondrous legacy, a rich aesthetic blending of nature’s beauty with myth, mysticism,and romanticism. Many of us find this aesthetic as compelling now during our Technological Revolution as it was during their Industrial Revolution — and perhaps for many of the same reasons.

"For every locomotive they built," Edward Burne–Jones once said, "I shall paint another angel." Although the world is still far from the idealized medieval craft society William Morris dreamed of, and although he would surely find much to be appalled about in the aesthetics of our time, I’m sure Morris would be pleased indeed to know that some of us still live with his fabric, his chairs, his wallpaper designs, and with framed reproductions of art by his friends.I’m sure Morris and his circle would be pleased to know we’re still painting angels.