Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pre-Raphaelite Paintings at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville

 click on the images below to enlarge

Last Saturday, Valerie and I had the humbling experience of travelling to Nashville to see some Pre-Raphaelite paintings that were part of a travelling exhibit at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. I won't try to cover all of the paintings we saw there but needless to say it was more than worth the drive. Information on the exhibit is at the link below.

It was Valerie's first viewing of a Rossetti and our first museum trip together so it was quite a significant event for us. The painting above is one of Rossetti's later works where he mostly focused on images of solitary women painted in very lush surroundings. This painting is called Dis Manibus, or Roman Widow. The model for this painting is Alexa Wilding and was one of Rossetti's favourite models towards the end of his life.

The painting above is by William Holman Hunt and is called Miss Gladys M. Holman Hunt (The School of Nature). Miss Holman Hunt was 16 at the time of the original sitting and when the model's face was retouched later by the equally incredible Pre-Raphaelite artist, Arthur Hughes, he aged her face a few years. I may edit this post later as I find out more about this. This painting is an example of how Holman Hunt followed the early Pre-Raphaelite painting principles throughout his life, the fidelity to nature, the bright colours even I can see, and yet, as Valerie pointed out to me, as realistic as the dog is painted, a close up examination reveals the animal is painted in a technique very closely resembling pointillism. It would be interesting to find out if the trends of late 19th Century art had any effect on this early to mid Victorian artist.

We also saw three of Sir Edward Burne-Jones Briar Rose series paintings displayed together. There was a bench situated in front of them. We needed it. Seeing them together was an emotional experience that at the moment defies my ability to describe it. This painting is called The Sleeping Beauty.

Why was it a humbling experience? For the last thirty years, these are some of the artists I've looked to in finding my own way as a painter. No amount of looking in books can prepare you for seeing the real thing. What strides I've made in my own work seem to pale in the reality of those who came before me. You can also see the benefits of a 19th Century English Royal Academy training in giving one the tools to paint what the heart's eyes see. Yet there are things that connect us in mundane ways. Years ago, I was looking at a watercolour by Rossetti and discovered he was using exactly the same D'Arches hot press watercolour paper I was using. The same paper that had been made literally since 1492.

There have been times after viewing such work, that I wonder why I continue to paint my strange little pictures and not paint for a few days, but then I don't give up easily. I may never reach the same skill level possessed by these artists of another time, but we do share a love of painting a beautiful romantic world that may have never existed except perhaps in the quantum reality of art.


Jenn Thorson said...

Oh, hooray, Patrick! You finally got to see what appears to be the show that came to Pittsburgh here about a year ago! (At least that Sleeping Beauty was definitely one I got to see myself.) There were some wonderful Rossettis there as well. I'm so glad you got to experience it.

Patrick Lynch said...

While I had seen Rossettis before, Valerie had not so it was quite a treat for both of us to finally see one together. I have to say that no matter how many Pre-Raph paintings I see in person, the effect is the same. I am completely blown away by them because no reproduction I've ever seen of any painting ever does justice to the real thing.