Our Pre-Raph Gang

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Young Topsy and Ned




Young William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones were both students at Oxford University (Exeter College) where they bonded over their love for romantic literature and King Arthur's adventures.
There was a particularly beautiful edition of "Le Morte d'Arthur" in a local bookshop
that young Ned often went to drool over (well, not literally drool over, hopefully...)
                                 His wealthy best chum surprised him one day by buying it for him.

Both boys (as well as all the Pre-Raphaelites) particularly loved the poetry of John Keats. And Ned (as well as Rossetti) was an avid fan of Edgar Allan Poe. (Ned would always have a fascination with the macabre despite having a lifelong problem with nightmares. More on this later.)

Morris would go on, of course, to write his own epic fantasy novels ( "The Well at World's End", "The Wood Beyond the World", etc.) that later would inspire Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

The above cartoon was meant to be ironic of course. The affluent Topsy would go on to become a staunch socialist who wanted nothing to do with titles and the aristocracy, while the formerly poor Ned Jones was offered a baronetcy in later life and became Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones. He said he accepted it for the sake of his son, Philip (who would also become an artist)
who would eventually inherit the title.

But I personally think Ned just liked the idea of being a knight--
even if he couldn't sit at the Round Table.

Coming up next:  Sir Ned.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Millais, Effie and Ruskin


                                   


 Probably the next sketch that will get inked...


After the Topsy/ Rossetti/Jane love triangle, this is the most famous other  Pre-Raphaelite scandal. While the Morris/ Rossetti affair was a bit more on the private side, the Ruskin-Effie-Millais ruckus made the papers and had Victorian England gossiping.
A drawing of Effie Gray, by Millais.




This unusual love triangle is also the subject of several modern stage plays,  several biographical books and novels... and two upcoming feature films.


So...what exactly happened?  Why all the fuss?

At least it would result in a happy ending for two of the above...





John Ruskin, the famous art critic and philosopher, married young Euphemia (Effie) Gray.
(Here's a previous cartoon of mine, below)


John Ruskin famously championed the new and radical Pre-Raphaelite art movement and its members. He was especially impressed with their youngest member John Everett Millais, who just so happened to be the same age as Ruskin's own young wife.

Millais used Effie as the model for a very successful painting called "The Order of Release"... which proved to be a very prophetic title.

The Order of Release, Millais.
While working on this painting, Millais and Effie became very, well, close. And Effie revealed to Everett a very strange secret: she and her husband, Ruskin, had been married for five years and their marriage was still unconsummated.

John Ruskin, self-portrait.

















Effie confessed that Ruskin had been "disgusted" with her on their wedding night, being taken aback that women in the flesh were not at all like the classical nude statues he had studied. (Apparently, Ruskin had never drawn from live nude models.)  Over time, when no children were forthcoming from the marriage, Ruskin made excuses that the problems were all associated with his wife. Effie was at her wits' end and wanted out. But divorce was a stigma for a woman in this era.

John Ruskin, by Millais.
Millais soon came to despise ever working on this painting, but
 nevertheless finished it even when the two men were no
longer friends, with Ruskin posing for him in chilly silence on a
staircase long  after the fiasco of the annulment.
Ruskin invited Millais to join his wife and himself on a trip to Scotland where Millais would begin to paint this famous portrait of the celebrated man. (right)   

Ruskin oddly enough seemed to leave Millais and his wife alone together many times, almost as if he was tempting fate.

Millais supported Effie's decision to seek an annulment so she could marry him instead. But this would prove to be an agonizing process.

For annulment proceedings to begin, Effie had to submit to a humiliating virginity test to prove her claim of non-consummation, as well as having to endure the scorn of the public. To make matters worse, Ruskin claimed she was mentally unstable.

When Effie's claims were proven conclusive, the annulment was finally granted and she was free to marry Millais. Ruskin, to his credit, did not bad-mouth his estranged wife, but instead fled to the continent to avoid further public humiliation. His sights would soon be turned toward supporting other Pre-Raphaelite artists-- notably Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Lizzie Siddal and Edward Burne-Jones-- but he was professionally through with John Everett Millais... with the exception of  continuing to pose for his "wretched" portrait.

John Everett Millais, painted by G.F. Watts.
Again with the profile...




Effie and Millais wasted no time and had about nine children, making Millais turn to more commercial work such as portraiture and illustration to support their growing family. However, due to her previously-married status, Effie  was still shunned by some of the aristocracy, even after her husband was knighted.

It was Millais' dying wish that Effie would finally be received socially by the prudish Queen Victoria, who frowned upon divorced women.




                        As for what happened next in John Ruskin's love life, that's another long story.



Coming up next: Young Topsy and Ned.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

And now a word from our sponsor...




Fanny Cornforth herself highly recommends the lovely (and very funny) Kirsty Stonell Walker's excellent biography Stunner: The Fall and Rise of Fanny Cornforth.

This is the brand new, revised and updated 2012 edition with new images of Fanny and a section devoted to Fanny in pop culture. (Yes, how many times can I say "Fanny" and try not to snicker?)

Also do yourself a favor and check out Kirsty's wonderful (and often hilarious) blog devoted to Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian art, The Kissed Mouth (the title of the book's cover painting.): http://fannycornforth.blogspot.com/


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(Featured in the above cartoon is Fanny with the Rossetti brothers: Gabriel (left) and Fanny's arch-nemesis, William Michael Rossetti. Read about all the drama in the book!)


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Top the Wombat Daydreams...


The infamous love triangle... er, quadrangle in this case.

Gradually I'm going through and inking the sketches and this is one of a couple that I've finished.



Even though Jane Burden married the wealthy and very busy William Morris, she would always have a thing for Dante Gabriel Rossetti, whom she met first and who was engaged to someone else (Lizzie Siddal.)
In later years, after Morris' death, she would admit to "never loving" her husband.

Jane, drawn by Rossetti.


Morris was extremely aware of what was going on between his wife and his friend, but he was loyal to both despite this. Infact, he took himself away to Iceland and left Rossetti alone with his wife for great amounts of time.

 William Morris, also drawn by Rossetti,
showing that Morris as a young man
certainly wasn't hard on the eyes.

Morris a a young man had also idolized Rossetti and (in keeping with Morris' love of medieval chivalry) it's also possible he thought of him as Lancelot to his King Arthur. But it does seem that Rossetti was more jealous of Morris than Morris was of him (as evidenced by Rossetti's increasingly snarky cartoons of his friend.)

Rossetti's cartoon of the Morrises, inwhich William is
apparently boring his wife reading  her his epic poetry
 while she undergoes therapeutic spa treatments.

And what does Top the Wombat have to add to this?

"Crikey, Rossetti can be such a knob."


            Coming up next: Millais, Effie and Ruskin.



Friday, June 8, 2012

Rossetti's Wombat











"The wombat is a joy, a triumph, a delight, a madness." -- Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

I decided to have Rossetti explaining his love for wombats to William Holman Hunt who is famously seen as being very unsympathetic to animals. (Poor goat...)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti loved animals. Loved animals. Infact, he collected them. Unfortunately, he didn't always know the proper ways to take care of them.

Rossetti especially fancied exotic animals and most of these were obtained from the infamous Jamrach's,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Jamrach,  a shop that supplied Victorian England with a plethora of strange critters alien to their shores.

After awhile, Rossetti had the neighbors near his home in Chelsea complaining about noises and nuisances caused by, among other creatures: kangaroos and wallabies, an armadillo, a raccoon, a deer, owls, a woodchuck, peacocks, a Japanese salamander, a zegu, two laughing jackasses, a Brahminee bull, etc. He even inquired into getting an African elephant and let's all hope he was just joking about that.
A common Australian wombat, which is what Top was.





But he had two wombats and the short-lived Top was one of them. (It's rumored he met his demise eating a box of Rossetti's expensive cigars. )

When Rossetti observed his cute, roly-poly wombat, he settled on what he thought was an appropriate name:
                                               Top.
The other "Top" in Rossetti's life...
Luckily William Morris good-naturedly let a lot of the jokes made at his expense roll off his back (He had to put up with years of Edward Burne-Jones' cartoons and practical jokes, after all...)
"Mrs. Morris and the Wombat",
a cartoon by Rossetti.
However, Rossetti's humor at Topsy's expense was a bit more barbed-- Rossetti was quite infatuated with Morris' wife, Jane, and the two would have an affair for years.

And Morris was sadly quite aware of it.
      

Wombats provided a lot of inspiration for Rossetti and friends. There was discovered to be many cartoons of wombats underneath the faded Oxford Union murals that Rossetti and some other Pre-Raphaelite pals were commissioned to paint. The bulk of these were by Ned Burne-Jones, who was deemed the best at wombat-portraiture of the gang.

                                                     An example of some of Ned's wombat art:

This wombat has made it all the way to Egypt.

Top even found his way into Rossetti's illustrations for his sister Christina's famous poem, "The Goblin Market."




But poor Top:


Rossetti's cartoon of himself mourning Top.


For more than you ever wanted to know about wombats and Australian animals in Victorian England, I recommend this book: 
And rest assured that I, for one, will keep Top the Wombat alive and kicking for as long as I can here at Pre-Raphernalia.
     

Coming up next: Top the Wombat Daydreams...



Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ned's Ups and Downs




Ned Burne-Jones was often in ill health and was known to faint at inopportune times, usually from stress, or exertion, or the after effects of  Maria Zambaco (his mistress; more about her in future posts.) Rossetti called these fainting spells "Ned's ups and downs."

Ned was also a sucker for a damsel in distress whom he could offer his prompt assistance and possibly gain a model.  A story that the artist Aubrey Beardsley told was that he and his sister had gone to Burne-Jones' home in hopes to meet the famous painter and to hopefully show him Beardsley's portfolio. They were almost turned away until Ned himself happened to see Beardsley's attractive sister... and he swiftly and courteously showed them inside.

Oh, the Nedster...


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Topsy and Ned Compare Sketches






One of the very first Pre-Raphaelite cartoons I drew in my sketchbook (if not the first!), just beause I wanted to see Topsy and Ned have a conversation. This was partly based on something I read in Josceline Dimbleby's book, "May and Amy" (which is the American title) which concerns Dimbleby's great-grandmother May and her romantic friendship with Edward Burne-Jones.

Ned wrote in a letter to his friend May comparing his and his friend William Morris' working styles as they sat together working on pages for what would become known as the Kelmscott Chaucer:

"All the time Morris is designing his borders here on Sunday morning one hears his teeth almost gnashing-- at least gnattering and grinding together... and when I (your poor friend) work I hold my breath, and when the stroke or touch is over I  have to sigh heavily so that anyone hearing would think I was unhappy-- and yet both I suppose are to steady the hand-- but isn't it strange."

The Kelmscott Chaucer, one of the most beautifully designed books of all time,
with borders by Morris and illustrations by Burne-Jones. Ned called it a
"pocket cathedral" when it was done.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Character Sketches: Topsy and Ned




It's no secret that these two are my favorites of the Pre-Raphaelites...

The very first sketchbook drawing of the Dynamic Duo.
The first cartoon sketches I did of any of the the Pre-Raphaelites were of Topsy and Ned, aka William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. Because of their close friendship and their very obvious physical differences, they are the most fun to draw.

This is the first of the cartoons I also inked, at the request of Grace Nuth (of The Beautiful Necessity blog) to be turned into a t-shirt. http://thebeautifulnecessity.blogspot.com/2011/09/ned-and-topsy-merch-from-raine.html
and here's the lovely Grace wearing hers (and standing infront of the awesome  Kelmscott silhouettes she made of Topsy and Ned):
http://thebeautifulnecessity.blogspot.com/2011/10/ned-topsy-arrived.html






So, who are these guys??


Edward Burne-Jones


Ted Jones, as he was known in the early days ("Ned" and "Burne" came later) was the only son of a widowed framemaker in Birmingham and they didn't have a lot of money. However, young Jones was a very smart boy who excelled in school and spent most of his time drawing and reading. He eventually ended up in Oxford
University and it was here that he met his peculiar and brilliant friend William Morris who shared his interests in medieval
history and King Arthur.











"The Beguiling of Merlin", probably Burne-Jones'
most well-known painting.






Both Morris and Jones dropped out of university to pursue the dreams of being an architect (Morris) and a painter (Jones). They avidly read John Ruskin's philosophies on art and this led them to seek out Dante Gabriel Rossetti as a mentor. This of course would change both their lives in very significant ways. (Rossetti had that effect on people.)

Ted became "Ned" and added the hyphenated "Burne" to his last name for a bit more pizzazz. A workaholic like his friend and largely self-taught, his dreamy painting style became increasingly sophisticated the more he studied art from the Italian Renaissance.

Physically, Ned was tall, pale, thin and often sickly. He was described as very shy-- at least in the beginning. He had a particular fondness for pretty young ladies that he considered "chivalrous".
(Georgie, his loyal and long-suffering wife, might have had other opinions on the matter.)
He also considered himself hopelessly plain and often drew himself like this:

He did have a wicked sense of humor and would draw cartoons his entire life (mostly in letters) for his own and others' amusement. He would go on to becoming one of the most celebrated artists of his time and ultimately accepting  a baronetcy, becoming Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones.


William Morris

Oh, where to start...?

William Morris, in contrast to his friend Ned, came from a large wealthy family. As a child Morris was very interested in nature and all things medieval , even having a small suit of armor of his own in which he rode his pony through Epping Forest.

When he attended Exeter College (in Oxford), he, like his new friend Ned Jones, was studying to become a priest.

"To grow like Topsy" was a saying that originated from the novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and this is where Morris got his nickname. (And for his mop of unruly curly hair which seemed to have a life of its own.)

In college, Topsy became disillusioned with religion and became a romantic. He began to write epic poetry (which he would continue to write to great acclaim for the rest of his life) and he would soon trade architecture for art when Rossetti encouraged it. While he dabbled in painting, he found his true talent actually lay in design work.

Topsy was on the short side and had a voracious appetite which caused his girth to increase and his friends to mercilessly draw cartoons mocking this. He also had a spectacular temper and a booming voice. (This voice would come in handy later in life when he would address crowds during his socialist campaigns.)

He organized a firm of "decorative artists" who would revolutionize home arts with attention to the hand-crafted, making (among many other things) textiles, furniture, pottery and stained glass. He employed his Pre-Raphaelite friends Burne-Jones, Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown in the early days of the Firm. Only Ned was to remain.



Then there was the matter of Janey, his wife... But this I'll leave to another post.


"The Tree of Life" tapestry, designed by William Morris.




 He is hailed as the founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement, which was the first major offshoot of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Not only was Morris an expert craftsman reknowned for his original hand-drawn patterns and designs, he was also a writer of fantasy novels that were to inspire Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in the next century.







In later life, Morris, despite his wealth, campaigned for socialism. This is where he and his longtime friend Edward Burne-Jones took philosophically different paths. While the originally poor Jones accepted a title, the rich Morris scorned the aristocracy.


But...


They remained friends for life.