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.
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.