Friday, May 18, 2012

The Great Holman Hunt/ Millais Paint-Off!

This probably won't be the last time you'll hear goat jokes in reference to William Holman Hunt here in Pre-Raphernalia.

Holman Hunt and Millais were the closest of friends in their early Pre-Raphaelite days, but as their painting styles took off in radically different directions, so did their careers.

When Hunt went to Palestine to paint several painstakingly researched religious subjects, he also created what was to become possibly his strangest symbolic picture:

As my college art history professor mumbled
every time this slide came up in class:
"Poor goat."
Scapegoat, Version 2. Despite the rainbow, the poor goat
would still rather be somewhere else.
There were two different versions of this painting and two different goats. (The first one died.) A Hebrew tradition goes that, on the Day of Atonement, a red cloth (representing sin) is tied around the horns of a goat and the poor creature is cast out into the wilderness, taking all the community's sins with it.
Holman Hunt's chosen setting for his painting is one of the bleakest spots on earth: the Dead Sea, of all places, where Maniac set up his easel and tied up his goat(s).

When the painting eventually came back to England, it had people scratching their heads. "We don't really get it, but it is a nicely painted goat..."

Millais, on the other hand, was getting quite a reputation as a portrait painter, something he was doing more and more frequently to pay the bills. (He and his new wife Effie were making up for the Ruskin years by producing an incredible amount of children. More on the "Ruskin Years" in a future post...)
Millais had always been adept at painting facial expressions and he was also very, very good at painting children. A little too good.

Pretty soon he was cranking them out left and right. Here are only a few:
Little Miss Muffet
Cherry Ripe

Oh yes... and the notorious "Bubbles":

This picture of Millais' grandson was used for a Victorian soap advertisement and it sealed Millais' fate as a sentimental painter of
ridiculously cute children.
Incidentally the little kid in this painting grew up to be Sir Admiral William Milbourne James, who had to put up with the nickname "Bubbles" for the rest of his life.

But it is a nicely painted soap bubble, don't you think....?

Coming up next:  We meet Topsy and Ned.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Confessions of a Male Stunner.

I'm playing fast and loose with the Pre-Raphaelite timeline in this cartoon. The chronology of the paintings is all wrong and Simeon Solomon came into the fray much, much later... but I just had to get him in there.

The painting that Millais is working on in the top panel is "Ferdinand Lured by Ariel" (a scene from Shakespeare's "The Tempest" that Millais had added weird green bat creatures to-- oddly this may be one of his only fantasy subjects.) Fred Stephens said he ached for days from the contorted pose Millais put him in.  (You try holding it!)

Millais was notorious for getting so carried away with his painting that he often forgot the comfort of his models. (Lizzie Siddal could tell you a very good story about that...)

The "guest stars" in this cartoon are:

Ford Madox Brown
Ford Madox Brown, self-portrait.
(His wife cut his hair...)

Known as "Bruno", he was Rossetti's mentor, an older artist who was a bit cantankerous but was also incredibly generous with both his art instruction and his meager funds. (Rossetti still owes him money to this day...) 

"Bruno" had a temper and the first time he met Rossetti he threatened to beat him with a stick.  (Probably not the only time someone wanted to beat Rossetti with a stick...)

Rossetti had asked Brown to give him art lessons and Brown had thought the younger artist was making fun of him. Then he realized that the young man was actually serious and honestly admired him, thus beginning a long and often taxing friendship. 
Ford Madox Brown inadvertently inspired all the Pre-Raphaelite art that was to follow.

Brown used Fred for this painting:

Jesus Washing Peter's Feet.
(Can you spot the other PRB members?)
Fred making a rather comely Jesus... ahem.

Simeon Solomon

A young Simeon Solomon, self-portrait, clean-shaven...

Simeon Solomon is actually a member of the second-generation Pre-Raphaelites (after the core seven had gone their separate ways) when Rossetti was leading the next wave.
Solomon's art began the move toward a more "decadent" sensuality in the movement and his paintings often featured androgynous figures and Jewish themes.

It was probably no secret that Simeon preferred the gentlemen, but sadly wasn't as discreet as he should have been considering the repressive era he lived in.

 Oscar Wilde owned many of his paintings.

Annie Miller as Helen of Troy
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
When William Holman Hunt was away, he employed his good friend Fred to "mind" Annie Miller, making sure she was going to her etiquette classes and not posing for Rossetti. I wonder what Annie thought about Fred...

Fred Stephens often acted as the go-between, something that probably became tiresome for him in the long run. ("Why can't these two just argue face to face without me delivering these bloody letters back and forth all the time?!" --Well, he might have said this.) 

But Fred got his wish in the end and became quite a well-known art critic who would chronicle the Pre-Raphaelites all his life, outliving many of them.

Coming up next: The Paint-Off!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Only Male Stunner


                                                Fred pretty much sums it up here.
                            (Well, I don't really know if  Rossetti ever told Fred he was pretty, but...)
Also, what you can't see is the tea stain all over this sketchbook scan. I was reading The Kissed Mouth's post on Fred and laughed and spilt the cup I was drinking.

F.G. Stephens (Frederic George Stephens) was indeed one of the original "Secret Seven" members of the Brotherhood. (The others besides Rossetti, Millais and Holman Hunt, were James Collinson, Thomas Woolner and Rossetti's writer brother, William Michael Rossetti.)

Despite beginning as an artist, Fred was so frustrated by his own attempts to finish a painting that he gave up on a career as a painter and became a well-known art critic instead. (He claimed he destroyed all his attempts at art but three of his paintings, thankfully, still survive.)

However, because Fred was, well, a good-looking guy, he was often employed by the others to model.  (He's gotten the honorary title "Hot Fred Stephens" with the current Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood... Thank you, Kirsty.)

Here are some portraits of him by his friends:

Fred, by William Holman Hunt.
I've had a crush on this painting for years.

Fred, by John Everett Millais.
The two of them are probably drawing each other,
 hence the "smoldering" upward glance.
Fred, by Ford Madox Brown, posing for Jesus.
(well, with later modifications... like removing those huge sideburns, for instance...)

Millais' sketch for Fred as Ferdinand in "The Tempest".
Some scruff, not bad...

And last but not least, Old Fred, looking uncannily like Dumbledore:
"Yes, kids, your Grandpa was quite the hottie once..."

               Coming up next: Confessions of a Male Stunner.

Character Sketches: The Stunners

Left to right:
Fanny Cornforth, Annie Miller and Jane Morris
...with Top the Wombat.

I was very honored to have the wonderful (and hilarious) Kirsty Walker ask me to contribute a cartoon to the new edition of her book, "Stunner", which is a much-needed biography of Fanny Cornforth-- restoring her dubious reputation in PRB history.
(Um, Fanny's dubious history, not Kirsty's...)
Kirsty's blog is wonderful--highly informative and very funny. 

I pulled Fanny out of the above sketch and inked her:

This means that I need to draw a different version of Fanny to add to the Stunner sketch
when I ink that. (Upcoming.)

"Stunner" was a term used by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood for their models-- or any other beautiful woman. 
Modeling for artists was looked down upon in Victorian society
 (as was being an actress) and models were  considered to be women of "loose morals." 
 (Probably because many of the women desperately needed the money
and weren't adverse to posing in the nude.)

However, the Brotherhood employed several women who quickly became favorites and muses. Naturally, some of the models also became involved personally with the painters.

Here are the three most well-known stunners (besides Lizzie Siddal)
 who would become part of the growing Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood.  (For a beautiful and informative site devoted to the Pre-Raphaelite ladies, please visit Stephanie PiƱa's wonderful Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood  ).

Fanny Cornforth

"Fanny Cornforth" was actually an alias: her real name was Sarah Cox.
Rossetti spotted her one day and loved her luxuriant hair (which was incredibly long, down
 to her legs when let loose.)

Bocca Bacciata
("The Kissed Mouth")
Dante Gabriel Rossetti

She was the physical opposite of the thin and willowy Lizzie Siddal,  being quite voluptuous.
A fun-loving woman with a strong Cockney accent and a healthy appetite, she was the bit of brightness in Rossetti's increasingly troubled mental state. His brother, William Michael Rossetti, had a personal vendetta against Fanny, seeing her as an opportunist taking advantage of the later reclusive Gabriel and possibly removing valuables (and artwork) from the premises.

Annie Miller

One of Rossetti's many drawings of  Annie and her bushy hair.
Annie began life in incredibly squalid conditions and she was a barmaid when William "Maniac" Hunt came across her and decided to not only make her his model but also his personal project. He painted her famously in "The Awakening Conscience" (the painting about a reformed
prostitute that beat Rossetti's similar idea to the punch) and arranged for Annie to be educated and given etiquette lessons. (Yes, just like "My Fair Lady.")

Another drawing by Rossetti while Maniac was away...
The Awakening Conscience
by William Holman Hunt.

Hunt went away to the Holy Lands to paint goats (among other things) and had left a list of exactly which of his painter friends Annie was allowed to pose for.
 It was no surprise that Rossetti was NOT on this list. This, however, didn't stop Annie from doing what she wanted and she modeled frequently for Rossetti.

Hunt was enraged and would later break off his engagement to her, but the etiquette lessons had paid off and she married the brother of a viscount.

Jane Morris

Jane Burden lived in Oxford, the daughter of a stableman and domestic servant. She was spotted in the audience at the Drury Lane Theatre by Rossetti and new friend Ned Jones (Edward Burne-Jones) who were in town to paint the Oxford Union Murals. Rossetti needed a model for Guinevere and asked her to to pose for him.

by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

While Rossetti was attracted to Jane's unusual dark looks, he was engaged to Lizzie Siddal. It was the best friend of Ned Jones, the wealthy and multi-talented William Morris, who ended up falling in love with Jane and proposing to her...
thus beginning one of the most notorious love
triangles in art history.

After Lizzie's death, Rossetti became increasingly obsessed with Jane and painted what were to become his most well-known works.

And finally we have :
Top the Wombat

No official photo or painting exists of  Top the Wombat, .
but this is a common Australian wombat, just like Top was.

Rossetti had an exotic animal obsession and collected a menagerie at his 
home in Cheyne Walk.
A cartoon by Rossetti of saintly Jane
with an equally saintly wombat.

     Rossetti's favorite of the critters was Top, who
     was named after William Morris (whose nickname was
    "Topsy"-- or "Top" for short). Rossetti thought his pet
     wombat bore a peculiar resemblance to his friend and 
     romantic rival.

       Rossetti unfortunately didn't always take good care of
       his  pets and despite Top being a lovable furball, Top
      didn't live very long. One of the theories about his
      demise was that he chowed down on a box of Rossetti's  
      expensive cigars.

        Nevertheless, Top became the unofficial mascot
                    of the Pre-Raphaelites.

 Coming up next: The Only Male Stunner.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Character Sketches: The Sisterhood

The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood inked.  (See my previous post for information about these ladies and some pictures of what they looked like... )

This is the original drawing from my sketchbook:

I "ink" using Micron Pigma pens and acrylic gouache (with small round watercolor brushes, usually anywhere from #0 to #2 in size)
Great Japanese waterproof, archival pens, beloved of comic book artists.

Waterproof gouache!! Edward Burne-Jones would have loved this stuff! Maybe if it had been invented in his day, the first version of "Love Among the Ruins" wouldn't have gotten... well, ruined.

(A hapless museum worker tried to "clean" Burne-Jones' painting, thinking it was done in oils. It was obliterated and poor Ned was forced to do a second version.)

                                         Coming up next: Stunners!

Friday, May 4, 2012

"Chick Books Don't Sell"

The night I was drawing this one in my sketchbook, there was a summer thunderstorm and the power went out. My sister had given me a metal candlelabra she'd found at a swap-meet that looks like something Lord Byron would have had on his writing desk, and I lit this for a properly gothic effect and finished this cartoon.

The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood consisted of artists, poets and models who were the wives, sisters and lovers of the Brotherhood.

The "chicks" in question here are:

    Lizzie Siddal
Elizabeth Siddal, aka Lizzie, The Sid, "Guggums"...
One of the many, many studies of Lizzie by Rossetti.

Lizzie was an unusually striking, tall redhead discovered working in a hatshop by young PRB friend Walter Deverell, who was actually the first painter to use her as a model.  She would become the iconic image of the Pre-Raphaelites and brought previously reviled red hair into fashion.

She was introduced to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and was painted by all of them, most famously by Millais for his masterpiece, "Ophelia" which turned her into the equivalent of a Victorian supermodel.

However, there was more substance to Lizzie than just a pretty face. By nature she was dignified (but had a sense of humor) and could also have a fiery temper.  But she was a creative
soul in her own right.
It wasn't long however before she was in a relationship with Dante Gabriel Rossetti who also became her art teacher. Previously untaught but with great potential, even the famous art critic John Ruskin (see my post Millais' Big Night, ) took notice of her and became her patron.

 Lizzie also wrote poetry, which became increasingly morbid as her tempestuous relationship with Rossetti worsened. She very briefly became his wife but died of a laudanum overdose (which may or may not have been a suicide.)

Georgie Burne-Jones

Georgie, from a family group portrait painted by her husband, 
Sir Edward Burne-Jones.

Don't even think about messing with
 Lady Burne-Jones.

Coming from a celebrated family of sisters herself (the Macdonalds, whose marriages would produce, among other things, writer Rudyard Kipling and a prime minister), Georgie was small and steadfast as well as a talented artist... until she relinquished her own artistic ambitions after her first child was born.

Nevertheless, she handled her husband's career almost single-handedly and today would have been called his manager (not to mention his live-in nurse.)

In her old age,  she became quite feisty, campaigning for socialism and women's suffrage. She was a force to be reckoned with, like her good friend William Morris. (She hated having the title "Lady" added to her name when her husband accepted a baronetcy, much to her annoyance.)
More on her frustrating husband  Ned (Edward Burne-Jones) in future posts.

Chistina Rossetti

Christina, by her older brother.
Sister of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and youngest member of the talented Rossettis, Christina was an early model for her brother's paintings. She was deeply religious, very picky about her boyfriends (she was engaged twice and changed her mind), and was a celebrated poet.

Due to later ill health, she became a bit of a recluse yet still benefited from a colorful cast of characters who came in and out of her life, thanks to her brothers William and Gabriel, both founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. And it was no secret that the lifestyles of Gabriel's increasingly eccentric crowd met with her disapproval. (Algernon Swinburne, famously decadent poet and buddy of her brother's, must have sent her into conniptions...)

Still, Christina's poetry was so highly regarded, she was one of the contenders for new poet laureate after Alfred Lord Tennyson's death. 
Christina, painted by her brother.

Her most famous work is "The Goblin Market" (here, illustrated by her brother Gabriel:)
"The Goblin Market" with added wombats.
I'll get to wombats soon, I promise..

There is sometimes a preoccupation with the theme of death in her poetry (and her solemn propensity for wearing black) that makes her a bit of a goth.

Christina was also said to have a bit of a temper as this cartoon by her brother Gabriel suggests, showing her reacting to unfavorable reviews of her poetry...

Lizzie and Georgie were great friends and it's true they had wanted to collaborate on writing and illustrating an original book of fairy tales. However, this was sadly unrealized due to Lizzie's tragic death. And Georgie, who had been studying to be an engraver in order to assist her husband, lost heart in her own work for many reasons, including a lack of support for her own artistic interests. (One of the many reasons why Lizzie was so important to her as a friend.)

Christina didn't bond with the other women in Rossetti's increasingly bohemian circle, staying indignant and aloof... but however writing one of her most beautiful poems about her brother's relationship with Lizzie Siddal:

In an Artist's Studio

    ONE face looks out from all his canvasses,
    One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans;
    We found her hidden just behind those screens,
    That mirror gave back all her loveliness.
    A queen in opal or in ruby dress,
    A nameless girl in freshest summer greens,
    A saint, an angel;--every canvass means
    The same one meaning, neither more nor less.
    He feeds upon her face by day and night,
    And she with true kind eyes looks back on him
    Fair as the moon and joyfull as the light;
    Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
    Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
    Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

Christina's brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti wasn't really so unsupportive
                     of female artists-- infact, he was sometimes a little too supportive...

He encouraged female pupils who then often went to Rossetti's mentor, Ford Madox Brown, for more lessons. (Brown had two daughters who learned from him and became artists in their own right.) Women were notoriously excluded from almost all major art academies.

The painting that Gabriel is showing Christina is called "Found" (which he never finished... and no, not because Christina hit him over the head with it. )

 It's about a prostitute found on the street by a former love and Rossetti had become frustrated with it. (He was also angry at William Holman Hunt for beating him to the punch with this theme and becoming quite successful with the same idea.)

Christina, incidentally, would work with "fallen" women's charities in her lifetime, so she would have had an interest in Gabriel showing her this painting...

Lastly, the phrase "chick books don't sell" will be familiar to anyone who has worked in the comics industry in the past few decades due to the belief that no one was interested in comics by female creators or about female main characters.

Fortunately, this has been proven wrong many times over in the past 10 years.

Power to the Sisterhood.

Coming up next: The Sisterhood character sketches.