Our Pre-Raph Gang

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...

Maniac
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!!

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