Saturday, December 15, 2012

Arthur Hughes Meets Millais

Based on a true story.

Everyone agreed that Arthur Hughes was an Incredibly Nice Guy. He was known for his graciousness and modesty. William Michael Rossetti had this to say about him :

Arthur Hughes at 19, a self-portrait.

If I had to pick out, from my once numerous acquaintances of the male sex, the sweetest & most ingenuous nature of all, the least carking & querulous, & the freest from envy hatred & malice, & all uncharitableness, I should probably find myself bound to select Mr Hughes.”

He also had a very happy marriage, five children and wasn't particularly concerned if he had fame or fortune as long as he and his family were comfortable. This of course makes him the complete weirdo of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Hughes once returned a check one of his patrons paid him for a painting, writing that she had paid too much and to please write him a new one as he couldn't possibly accept such an exorbitant amount. I don't think I could be ever be that modest....

Arthur Hughes was not one of the official Brotherhood, of course, but he was a devoted follower of The Germ (a sort of Pre-Raphaelite magazine published in the early days of the PRB, full of reviews, PRB philosophy and poetry. With pictures, of course.) He would later become acquainted with Dante Gabriel Rossetti through Walter Deverell (Pre-Raphaelite friend and auxiliary member of the PRB who is probably most known for having discovered Elizabeth Siddal working in a hatshop and being the first artist to hire her as a model.)

Arthur Hughes' first version of Ophelia with the pond that Millais didn't like.
 Arthur Hughes' first version of Ophelia had the bad timing to be hung at the Royal Academy at  the same time as John Everett Millais' more famous rockstar version of the same subject.While Millais gained quite a lot of deserved fame from his Ophelia, Hughes' version was relegated to the Octagon Room, called by the resident artists "The Condemned Cell". Not only was it in a terrible location, it was hung extremely high up ("above the line") where it could only be observed with the use of a ladder. This, sadly, would be the fate of many of Hughes' future paintings at the Royal Academy.

However, young Arthur was resigned to his fate but was astounded when his hero, the older former student Millais (with whom he had never spoken) wandered over and asked him if he was "Cherry". (Arthur Hughes' artist friends had given him this nickname because he frequently blushed.) Millais told him that he had indeed climbed the ladder to look at his version of Ophelia and that it had given him "more pleasure than any picture there".

 But... he didn't like the pond.

 Millais enlisted Arthur Hughes to pose for his painting, The Proscribed Royalist, 1651 (below):

He's the one in the tree.
April Love
"Ned, go grab it before Ruskin
gets his hands on it!"
Arthur Hughes quickly became known for his Millais-inspired paintings of couples in love and delicately rendered maidens-- many done in his trademark purple and green. Infact, his most well-known painting April Love was bought by William Morris-- who sent a grumbling Edward Burne-Jones to scurry off and purchase it for him before anyone else did. (He'd heard John Ruskin wanted it.)

 When Walter Deverell introduced Hughes to Rossetti, Rossetti was delighted by Hughes' Ophelia. (Deverell complained that he hated the somewhat sinister addition of a bat flying above the stream in the painting; but of course animal-loving Rossetti proclaimed  it to be one of his favorite things about it.)

Rossetti enlisted Hughes among others (including young William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Valentine Prinsep) to help paint the murals in the Oxford Union Hall that famously began to fade because the young artists failed to prepare a proper protective "ground" on the walls first. (And revealed underneath the fading paintings were some wombat cartoons, proving that the Oxford Union gang wasn't above having a good time.)

Ophelia, Version 2.0

Arthur Hughes would go on to do a second version of Ophelia (left) and produce an incredibly huge amount of work that also included book illustrations. He most famously did illustrations for Victorian fantasy writer George MacDonald (Phantastes and The Princess and the Goblin.)

An illustration for George MacDonald's fantasy novel Phantastes.

One of his biggest fans and later a good friend was Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), who became a sort of "uncle" to Hughes' children and frequently photographed them.

Arthur Hughes would always remain a well-liked and lifelong friend to many members of the PRB as well as the "Second Phase" PRB, led by Morris and Burne-Jones. Cherry's cheerful, self-effacing and non-competitive demeanor was probably refreshing for everyone.

The elder Cherry.
Still happy that Millais
 hated his pond.

Coming up next: Ford Madox Brown Meets Young Rossetti.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Not Pre-Raphaelite but... "Kubla Khan"--The Retry


A slight break from the Pre-Raphaelites here so I can indulge in some fun with the Romantic poets (of which I am also very fond.)

I admit that my two favorite poets are John Keats and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and this cartoon was done just for fun on Coleridge's birthday (October 21st).

Young Coleridge sporting an early mullet.

The Pre-Raphaelites were inspired by the Romantic Poets (Blake, Keats, Byron and Shelley) as well as the "founders",  William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Most people are familiar with the story of how the dream-like imagery of the poem "Kubla Khan" was interrupted by a knock on the door and a laudanum-using Coleridge went to attend to his visitor and completely forgot his train of thought. This story was famously spread by Coleridge himself, who claimed he was detained by a "person from Porlock".

Since then, a Person from Porlock has been used by a number of fantasy authors as a mystical being who interrupts some major, earth-shaking undertaking. But it was shrewd publicity stunt on Coleridge's part that gave this unfinished poem an air of mystery. It was Lord Byron himself who coaxed Coleridge into finally publishing it after he read it to him.

It begins:     
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea. (lines 1–5)

And the last lines written:
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise. (lines 48–54)

...which is when the Person from Porlock allegedly struck.

William Wordsworth
Not really known for practical jokes
 but what the heck...
Charles Lamb
Pretty much known for his practical jokes,
bad puns, and Essays of Elia.
Read up on this guy: he's fascinating!

I decided to have William Wordsworth and Coleridge's impish childhood friend Charles Lamb do some pranking on poor STC. (Or "Col", as he liked to be called rather than "Samuel", which he hated.)

For an excellent and epic biography about Coleridge I recommend Richard Holmes' 2-volume set:
 Coleridge: Early Visions, 1772-1804 and Coleridge: Darker Reflections, 1804-1834 .

See you next time when we meet Pre-Raphaelite fanboy Arthur Hughes.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Georgie's Birthday

I wanted William Morris and Georgie Burne-Jones to have a little fun at her husband Ned's expense in this cartoon. Topsy and Georgie were very close friends late in their lives and there was always that persistent rumor that they were much closer ...
Georgie Burne-Jones,
painted by her brother-in-law, Edward Poynter.
...however, despite the sadness in both their marriages, they would remain heroically loyal to their spouses. Still, despite his wandering eye, if there was a way to make Ned jealous it would be his wife and his best friend paying more attention to each other than to him.
William Morris
"Would you take the #%&!-ing picture already
 so I can get back to work?
And no, Morris isn't showing off-- he was surprisingly modest about all his exhausting accomplishments.
 I'm definitely guilty of giving Edward Burne-Jones more hair on top of his head than he probably actually had. (You're welcome, Ned. Anytime.) And William Morris called all his close friends "old chap", even the women. (Topsy was perhaps the closest thing to a feminist among the Pre-Raphaelites.)

Edward Burne-Jones
Does art and stuff.
Morris and Georgiana Burne-Jones grew close in the later years of their respective marriages, probably because of their similar sad marital situations. Jane Morris, Topsy's wife, was having an affair with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and became the muse who inspired Rossetti's last beautiful and mythic paintings. Ned had meanwhile fallen in love with his model, Greek sculptor Maria Zambaco, despite what had previously been a relatively happy marriage between he and Georgie.

 He was also in the habit of falling in love with every pretty face that came to his studio and this often resulted in a plethora of platonic love letters. Georgie carried on stoically managing the household and the business end of things (which included Ned's career), but she knew nothing would ever be the same again with their marriage.

This was when Georgie began to become her own woman with her own views on the world which differed greatly from her still very safely conservative husband. (See Sir Ned.) 
Thanks to her deepening friendship with her husband's best friend, she began to have distinct political views which included socialism, women's suffrage and anti-imperialism. Her nephew, the writer Rudyard Kipling, had to pacify a neighborhood angry at her anti-war banners. Yes, little Georgie became a force to reckoned with in her old age.

"What's the deal with all these vampires lately?
Wait. Let me just finish this chapter..."
When Georgie first met Topsy, she thought he hadn't taken much notice of her. She later learned that Morris had a habit of giving new people a quick, sweeping evaluation and then going about his business. What she learned later was the great admiration Morris had for her quiet strength, her intelligence and practicality...and especially her large grey eyes which were given to certain heroines of his poetry and novels.  Georgie was reknowned for her no-nonsense stare that seemed to see right through any pretense.

A Book of Verse
One of the best birthday presents in the
history of birthday presents ever...
As a birthday gift for Georgie, Morris had put together the beautiful A Book of Verse. No , it wasn't 400 hundred pages long, but Topsy did hand-letter it and drew the intricate, foliate borders on the last pages, as well as contributing coloring and sketches for the other illustrators who worked on it with him. And Ned himself contributed one illustration for the first poem, entitled "The Two Sides of the River" which depicts a man reaching his arms out to a woman on an opposite shore as if to say, "I'm sorry." 

But it's my belief that the poems in this book are some of the saddest and loneliest that William Morris ever wrote. And Morris would go on to illuminate more little books for Georgie for more of her birthdays, including the first version he created of  "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam."

               Very lucky lady.

Coming up next: Arthur Hughes Meets Millais.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Birthday, John Keats!

John Keats was the favorite poet of the Pre-Raphaelites (well, next to Tennyson) and his poems inspired many, many paintings, including "The Eve of St. Agnes" (Hunt, Millais, Arthur Hughes) "Isabella and the Pot of Gold"(Hunt, Millais), "La Belle Dans Sans Merci"(pretty much everyone), etc.

                                              And all were very sexy.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Not Pre-Raphaelite, but...

Here's a couple more literary figures I've done cartoons of:

                                                                         Lord Byron

Actually, Dante Gabriel Rossetti's uncle, John Polidori, was Byron's personal physician during the famous "Haunted Summer" that produced Polidori's tale "The Vampyre" and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Polidori was later fired by Byron, and after "The Vampyre" was published it was mistakenly believed to be written by Byron himself, despite protests to the contrary by Byron and Polidori. The story was a great success and started a literary vampire craze. (Well, some things never change...)

 The Rossetti children never really knew their Uncle John, as he took his own life before they were born.

                                                    Edgar Allan Poe

Poe was actually a favorite author of Rossetti's and Edward Burne-Jones'. Burne-Jones had a taste for the macabre, but he admitted that Poe's gruesome story, "The Black Cat" was a little too much for him. (It might be because Ned was a devoted cat-lover, as was Poe himself, oddly enough.)

Rossetti did illustrations for Poe's poems and his own poem, "The Blessed Damozel",  is sort of a reverse viewpoint of Poe's "The Raven".

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Happy Birthday, Oscar Wilde!

          Oscar Wilde was a Pre-Raphaelite follower and a frequent guest at the Burne-Jones house.

Actually, his birthday was yesterday (October 16) but I had about an hour left to draw this cartoon when I came home from work from the bookstore last night. So a belated happy birthday, Oscar!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Dickens' Review


Years ago in my college art history class, we talked about the painting by John Everett Millais that is commonly called The Carpenter's Shop and our professor read us Charles Dickens' review of it. I remember wondering then just what was Dickens' problem. Ironically, he and Millais would go on to become good friends, but only after Millais had become reknowned for the style that Dickens originally found "revolting" and "repulsive".

I wanted to have Millais yelling in Dickens' face, asking him the questions I wanted to know. "You champion common everyday people in your stories yet you can't seem to tolerate them in artwork." It's probably because it wasn't what Victorian people were used to looking at in galleries-- paintings were their version of the cinema and they wanted to see pretty, glamourous people, not people who looked like themselves. Granted, the Pre-Raphaelites would later supply plenty of pretty, glamourous people, but Millais' talent would always be for catching realistic emotions and likenesses. This painting was just too "gritty" for the tastes of its age.

Don't get me wrong: I love Dickens. I have a shelf of books and biographies by and about him. But historically he could also be incredibly infuriating. Just ask his daughter Kate. Or his wife (Don't get me started.)

But tastes in art change and in 1850, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were seen as radical upstarts, wanting to take on what they saw as the stale and stodgy artistic restrictions of the Royal Academy to introduce a new way of looking at color, composition and subject matter. I'm sure they expected some scorn for going against the norm, but I don't think they were prepared for this.

                        It's hard to believe now, but this is the painting that was seen as so shocking:

Christ in the House of His Parents, 1849-50, John Everett Millais.
Queen Victoria even asked to have a private showing of this painting at Buckingham Palace in order to judge how truly terrifying it was to the public. (Millais would later find this all incredibly amusing, even if the Queen didn't.)

What was probably considered so offensive about this painting was that ordinary, un-idealized people were chosen as the models to play the members of Christ's family. Millais had gone very "method painter" for this one, sketching industriously for hours in a real carpenter's shop, even bringing home to his studio wood shavings and sheep's heads (ugh) for authenticity. He enlisted his relatives to model for his subjects and I'm sure they weren't exactly thrilled later when they read how their physical appearances were described by one very notorious reviewer...

Young Millais, prior to the big fuzzy
 sideburns,  drawn by William Holman Hunt.

Millais  seemed to get the lion's share of attention, both good and bad, in the early days of the PRB. On top of this particular painting's hyper-realism, it was also steeped in religious symbolism that would become the trademark of Millais' best buddy, William Holman Hunt. (You can see a lot of  Hunt's thematic influence on early Millais.) But Millais and his painting hardly seemed to deserve what got thrown at it...

...Because it was Charles Dickens, the most famous man in England, who set his journalistic eye on this "new style" of painting and in particular, this former child prodigy of the Royal Academy.

I give you Dickens' review of the picture in its near-entirety:

                                            When Dickens attacks!!

   "You come in this Royal Academy Exhibition, which is familiar with the works of WILKIE, COLLINS, ETTY, EASTLAKE, MULREADY, LESLIE, MACLISE, TURNER, STANFIELD, LANDSEER, ROBERTS, DANBY, CRESWICK, LEE, WEBSTER, HERBERT, DYCE, COPE, and others who would have been renowned as great masters in any age or country you come, in this place, to the contemplation of a Holy Family. You will have the goodness to discharge from your minds all Post-Raphael ideas, all religious aspirations, all elevating thoughts, all tender, awful, sorrowful, ennobling, sacred, graceful, or beautiful associations, and to prepare yourselves, as befits such a subject Pre-Raphaelly considered for the lowest depths of what is mean, odious, repulsive, and revolting.

  "You behold the interior of a carpenter’s shop. In the foreground of that carpenter’s shop is a hideous, wry-necked, blubbering, red-headed boy, in a bed-gown, who appears to have received a poke in the hand, from the stick of another boy with whom he has been playing in an adjacent gutter, and to be holding it up for the contemplation of a kneeling woman, so horrible in her ugliness, that (supposing it were possible for any human creature to exist for a moment with that dislocated throat) she would stand out from the rest of the company as a Monster, in the vilest cabaret in France, or the lowest ginshop in England.
  "Two almost naked carpenters, master and journeyman, worthy companions of this agreeable female, are working at their trade; a boy, with some small flavor of humanity in him, is entering with a vessel of water; and nobody is paying any attention to a snuffy old woman who seems to have mistaken that shop for the tobacconist’s next door, and to be hopelessly waiting at the counter to be served with half an ounce of her favourite mixture. Wherever it is possible to express ugliness of feature, limb, or attitude, you have it expressed. Such men as the carpenters might be undressed in any hospital where dirty drunkards, in a high state of varicose veins, are received. Their very toes have walked out of Saint Giles’s."

Look! Millais even got himself a
 statue at the Tate! Except that it
 later got moved to the back.
How humiliating. 

Ouch. I feel really sorry for Millais' relatives.

And Dickens goes on that soon there will be a Pre-Galileo Brotherhood (the PGB, no doubt) who will want to take science back to the days when the sun revolved around the earth. Yes, you're very funny, Charles. Anyway...

...But it was respected art critic John Ruskin who came to the rescue of the flabbergasted PRB and countered Dickens' dreadful review by defending the young artists. Ruskin especially took Millais under his wing (which would of course lead to certain future complications...)

As the Pre-Raphaelites would eventually start gaining fame and success, they would also become more respectable. (Well, almost. Rossetti was always on the fence...) Johnny Millais would someday become Sir John Everett Millais, the first artist ever to be given a baronetcy. But until this happened, he got invited to a lot of parties.

It so happened that he was friends with writer Wilkie Collins (The Woman in White) and his brother Charles, who was a painter and a potential Pre-Raphaelite brother.

                       Both men were also good friends with Charles Dickens.  

            The Collins brothers: Wilkie (left) and Charles (right). Both portraits by Millais.
They desperately wanted to patch up the rift between the Most Famous Man in England and the painter of the beloved Ophelia. Dickens cordially sent Millais an article about the London fire brigade (the subject of one of Millais' next paintings), along with a peculiar apology:

Charles Dickens:
"With great power comes great artwork..."
or something like that.

 "Objecting very strongly to what I believed to be an unworthy use of your great powers, I once expressed objections in (this) same journal. My opinion on that point has not in the least changed, but it has never dashed my admiration of your progress in which I suppose are higher and better things..." (source: John Everett Millais: A Biography, by G.H. Fleming)

So in other words, Dickens believed Millais was not using his superpowers for Good, plus he was probably hanging around too much with the Injustice League.

Patching up (a bit) with Dickens led to Millais using Dickens' daughter Kate, also a budding artist, as a model for his painting, The Black Brunswickers.

Kate Dickens, later Perugini.
"My dad is driving me nuts. Must get married quickly."
The Black Brunswickers.
This guy was no one Kate knew. Really.

Kate's artist husband 2.0:
Charles Edward Perugini.
And she was much happier...

Not long after this, Kate would hurriedly marry Millais' friend Charles Collins, much to her father's near-hysteria because he believed his favorite child was only getting hitched in order to get away from him and the increasingly troubled Dickens household. (That's a long story in itself; see again link about Dickens' wife...) Kate's marriage to Charles was not a happy one, and he died young. Kate woud go on to marry yet another artist, the Italian-born painter Charles Edward Perugini. As Kate Perugini now, Kate's own career as a artist would finally flourish.

Of course, at the end, the irony of all this was that Millais was the artist who was called in to draw Dickens' official deathbed portrait. Millais, always a gentleman, by this time had forgiven Dickens for that horrible review.

Maybe I'm having a harder time with it.
                                               But then again, Millais had superpowers.

Coming up next: Georgie's Birthday.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Lizzie and Algernon

I've got a cartoon planned of Lizzie telling off Ruskin. That should be fun...
Elizabeth Siddal, by Rossetti.
Algernon Swinburne

 I talked about in this previous post how Lizzie Siddal and Algernon Swinburne
 became very close friends and had an almost sisterly and brotherly relationship, helped
by the fact that both shared the same hair color.
"'Hit me with your best shot."
Dante Gabriel Rossetti often said he had to teasingly reprimand them for getting too rowdy in their conversations.
John Ruskin,
patronizing patron.
John Ruskin seemed to always be convinced
that Lizzie was terribly ill, even dying.
He wrote in an 1855 letter after first meeting
her that "Rossetti and I will take care of her"
and that she had potential for genius,
"if she lives".

Ruskin offered her money to live on while she pursued her artistic study under Rossetti's tutelage. But once Lizzie reluctantly accepted his patronage, she also found that Ruskin had very little advice about her dream of becoming an artist. Instead, he seemed to want to run every other aspect of her life which included telling her what she must do to "get well", sending her to doctors, prescribing strange medical concoctions, keeping her isolated and treating her in a patronizing manner as if she were a wayward child. On top of this he advised, "Only draw when you can't help it." And when she did break down and actually do some artwork, she was to draw only the way Ruskin told her to, which would take away any  spontaneity and artistic freedom she had.

Lizzie, self-portrait. She does not look happy.
She's probably thinking of doing a "Christina Rossetti"
with a canvas on somebody's head...
Eventually, Ruskin was begining to drive Lizzie nuts. One of his doctors finally advised that she was probably thinking too much --women should never overtax their poor little brains, poor dears; it will cause physical illness and erratic behavior-- and suggested she was not do any artwork for several months. Lizzie was understandably very indignant and this probably added to her reputation for being "difficult". She no longer wanted Ruskin's patronage. Rossetti, who was also relying on Ruskin's patronage, became quite anxious.

All on top of this was Rossetti's wandering eye. It's no wonder Lizzie was thankful for
Swinburne's friendship and attention...

       ...even if Algie was a little odd, he respected her and made her laugh.

1874 cartoon of Algie by "Ape" in Vanity Fair.

 Coming up next: Dickens' Review.