Our Pre-Raph Gang

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, Grace! (Ned Likes Mermaids)


I drew this picture for the lovely and talented Grace Nuth for her birthday several months ago.
(Go here for this wonderful interview with Grace about Pre-Raphaelite mermaids!)  It is no secret that she is especially fond of our Nedster and of his own special fondness for mermaids. Ned may have developed a taste for aquatic ladies due to his move later in life to the seaside village of Rottingdean (also home to Ned's nephew Rudyard Kipling).  No, I've never been there but there is great Google reference of its cliffs, which I tried to show in the above drawing.

Perhaps Edward Burne-Jones is associated most with his angels (yes, it is getting to be that time of year when you will see a plethora of Burne-Jonesian angel greeting cards everywhere), but it is his mermaids which proved to be his most haunting obsession.

First of all, everything that needs to be said about  Burne-Jones and his mermaids was expressed to perfection in this wonderful post from Kirsty Stonell Walker. I can't add more.

Except for showing you some of Ned's mermaid art, right here:





Ned seemed very fond of mer-families...


 But more treacherous mermaids seemed to be on his mind as well, as shown in this small painting:

Hurling a fish at her isn't going to work, buddy.

And this is probably his most famous mermaid image
of all, as well as one of his most famous paintings:
The Depths of the Sea.
Or better known as a t-shirt called "Mermaid Hugging Man". We'll let Grace explain...


Coming up next:
Wombat Friday and why everyone needs to celebrate it.



Monday, October 14, 2013

Sorry for the Lateness...

Yes, my apologies being so late posting new cartoons, but to make up for it...

               ...here's William Morris on a skateboard!


I've been working on lots of other illustration projects, and unfortunately have had a few maintenance disasters in my apartment that have also delayed work (looooong story.) But coming up in future posts, I will finally get to, among new cartoons, some new birthdays, Ned Burne-Jones and mermaids, and the phenomenon of Wombat Friday. (What, you don't know about WOMBAT FRIDAY? Go here and here. )

See you soon!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Happy Birthday, Verity!


 
 
First off, I apologize for the misspelling of "magnificence". I can't even blame American spelling for that one. As I told everyone, unfortunately my sketchbook doesn't come with a spellcheck.
My birthday cartoons have been getting later and later no matter how much advance planning I put into them. Poor Verity had to wait several weeks for this one and Fiz several months!
 
Sorry, Fiz.
Yeah, so I took the opportunity to blame

it on the wombat.

(So if your birthday goes by without a cartoon, rest assured that in a decade from now you'll unexpectedly get a message on whatever social media is in vogue at the time: "Hey, sorry this cartoon was late for your birthday ten years ago, but here it is, lol!")

We've already established that Dante Gabriel Rossetti was an animal-lover and kept a
menagerie of exotic animals at his home at Cheyne Walk. Unfortunately, he never really knew how to care for them properly and was somewhat hurt when they unexpectedly expired. This cartoon is based on a (somewhat) true story that Verity Holloway related to us.

Verity is a Rossetti devotee and an authority on all things Rossettian. So you can imagine what it must have been like for her to see a lock of Rossetti's actual hair! I'll let her elaborate more from this email she sent me entitled Hairball:

It was at Literary Circles in 2007 when I was an undergrad: http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/whatson/exhibitions/article.html?223 I think I'd just started my dissertation (partly on Lizzie Siddal) and was in full Serious Note-Taking Mode. I didn't know the hair was going to be there, or even that it existed, so it was a shock to see this dark coil in a folded bit of paper and to belatedly realise it came from Rossetti's head. And then to even more belatedly realise you're staring at a dead man's hair with a massive grin on your face like someone with a bit of a problem. And then to realise you'd quite like to touch it.
 
They also had Keats' hair, but who cares?
 
(Joke.)
 
 :-D I like it that it's of the utmost importance to DGR that he pleases some blonde he's never met.

It's just occurred to me…what would happen if someone excavated his garden? Can you image all the weird animal bones? The horror.
 
"Keats' hair too? Gasp!" ---Me.
 
The exhibition was probably the best I've ever been to! They just had everyone I love - Rossetti, Blake, Sassoon, The Brontes: just all of it! And there were Lizzie Siddal's paintings, too. I went to an evening talk there by Lucinda Hawksley, and before the talk you were allowed to view the exhibition semi-privately. I was standing in front of a chalk drawing of Fanny by DGR, and he'd run out of space so just glued another piece of paper on and carried on over the join! I could just hear him thinking, "Oh Hell. Nobody'll notice."
 


Thanks again for the story, Verity.
(I would love to touch Keats' hair...)
 
Reading about the exhibition, I would have absolutely loved to have seen it. It's completely up my alley. "...text and image intersected, reinforcing one another, but also competing for pre-eminence... Focusing on illustration, fantasy and caricature": Pre-Raphaelites, Richard Dadd, William Blake, Max Beerbohm and dead guys' hair in boxes all in one place?

Damn. I would definitely have flown out there.


Here's hoping a raccoon shows up on your door someday with a curl of thick, glossy, chestnut Italian hair in its mouth, Verity.



Coming up next: Ned likes mermaids.

 
 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Stünners in Concert!











I'm pretty sure this idea came from a silly conversation on Facebook with members of the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood page. "The Stunners sounds like a good name for a girl band!" "Who would play what instrument?" Etcetera. The line-up in the top cartoon is: (left-to-right) Annie Miller on bass; Fanny Cornforth on drums; Lizzie Siddal on lead guitar; Jane Morris on vocals; and lastly, Georgie Burne-Jones on keyboards. We all agreed that Effie Gray would be their manager.

As it turns out, there actually is a girl band called The Stunners. So I added the umlaut over the "u" to make them more metal. (As David St. Hubbins says in This is Spinal Tap: "It's like a pair of eyes. You're looking at the umlaut, and it's looking at you.")  Georgie Burne-Jones actually did play the piano and sing very well--her husband did many drawings of her at her keyboard.

                                      Anyway, the band of course needed groupies.
William Homan Hunt
finds it hard to resist a good groove.

"Who would be the one to rush the stage?" "You know it would be William Holman Hunt."

Hunt (who I've sadly neglected in cartoons as of late... not for long though...) was notoriously religious but was also nicknamed "Mad" or "Maniac" for activities such as creeping around at night with a lantern to paint nightscenes, boiling a dead horse or stranding a goat in the Dead Sea to depict this psychedelic image:

Poor goat...

Burne-Jones had a penchant for fainting when he became over-excited. Fred Stephens (with his new moustache) is shouting "Look!" The man holding the stuffed wombat and later saying "Oy vey" is Simeon Solomon.
 
Simeon Solomon
is embarrassed on behalf of the
PRB for Hunt's dancing skills.


Coming up next: Rossetti cuts off his hair for a good cause!






Young Topsy and Ned (inked)




This is one to hold us over until The Stünners...

Yay! Another one inked! (You can find the original post about this cartoon here.)

I'm gradually getting through them and I'll keep posting them as I ink and letter them.

This is the original sketchbook drawing (right).

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Millais, Effie and Ruskin (inked)









As I said in the previous post, I'm going back and inking the older cartoons in order to start compiling them for a book. The original post about the sketchbook drawing for this particular picture can be found here. 

Here is the first drawing (right).
The inked version is done in Pigma pens with acrylic gouache and a watercolor brush.





The Stünners are coming, I promise this time!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rossetti and Jane (and Top)



I've been late posting new cartoons due to other illustration projects (see my other blog http://thewatchertree.blogspot.com/) but there are lots coming, including the promised Stünners concert.

This is a commission I did for someone who requested a picture of Rossetti painting Jane. (I couldn't resist adding Top as well. )

This is the original sketch (right), done in my sketchbook. I photocopied it, enlarging it, and transferred it to a 9" x 12" sheet of vellum bristol paper, using a lightbox. Then I "inked" it using acrylic gouache.


Incidentally (shameless self-promotion) if you have an idea for a commission (either original artwork or a print of inked art), please message me here: .https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Pre-Raphernalia-Pre-Raph-Sketchbook-Cartoons/280541598646298


I'm going through and inking the original cartoons seen here in this blog to be collected in bookform.
And there are still new ones on the way!


 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Trouble With Ruskin



















 
 
Actually, after I did this cartoon I discovered that John Ruskin always wore a white waistcoat which can be fixed later on in the inked version.

I had also played with the idea of Christina Rossetti emerging with her vengeful canvas whenever someone made a sexist comment. So far, this is only her second assault.
 
I first discussed Elizabeth Siddal's difficulties with Ruskin as a patron here.  Ruskin was indeed a stout advocate of artistic education for women and he was also very enthusiastic about Lizzie's potential, buying all the art she had produced upon seeing it. He proposed an allowance for her, along with his own instruction which included drawing lots of rocks. 
(Ruskin was a huge fan of drawing rocks.)
 
Lizzie preferred to learn from Dante Gabriel Rossetti who was a much more laid-back teacher, who like herself worked mostly from intuition rather than from any academic training. According to Rossetti, she was at first reluctant to take an allowance from Ruskin, but when she finally consented, she used her first payment to buy art supplies.
 
Ruskin advised her not to draw from her imagination (which she loved to do).
 He meant for her to hone her drawing skills, but it was deadly dull for Lizzie all the same.
 
Rossetti did many, many studies of Lizzie at work
including the one below inwhich he draws
 himself modeling for her.
 
 
 "Don't forget to make my hair look fabulous and windswept."

Hmm, this one should be familiar to ALL of you!

 
According to Pamela Gerrish Nunn and Jan Marsh's excellent Women Artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement, Ruskin considered life as a Pre-Raphaelite artist too overpowering for Lizzie's "feminine" nature and he frequently sent her away to warm climates, telling her not to overtax herself by doing any artwork at all.
 
This was obviously frustrating for her since the whole point of Ruskin's patronage was for her to become a better artist and to continue to produce paintings and drawings. Nevertheless, Lizzie still managed to rebel by continuing to draw and teaching herself to paint, as well as working from her imagination. Despite a tumultuous time in her relationship with Rossetti, this was her most productive period and she exhibited her artwork publicly alongside the male Pre-Raphaelite artists.
 
John Ruskin

"Please... let's not bring up Effie Gray again. I would be most grateful."

To be fair, Ruskin, (who was full of contradictions just like any other human being) was of course very capable of enlightened ideas (although approaching them from the position of someone with money and privilege.)  He was a generous man who offered financial assistance and education to the poor. He also advocated superior education for women ("Let girl's education be as serious as a boy's"). Despite dismissing the need for women's rights, he did reply that if women were supposed to be obedient and unquestioningly servile to men, it was akin to them being slaves. (This was bad.)
 
However...
 
There was his comment on a popular female artist:
 
"I never approached a picture with more iniquitous prejudice against it than I did Miss Thompson's, partly because I have always said that no woman could paint; and secondly, because I thought what the public made such a fuss about must be good for nothing."

                             And his actual advice to an aspiring woman artist:

"You must resolve to be a great paintress; there never having been such a being as a lady who could paint."

 (Actually, there were quite a lot of ladies over the centuries who could paint that Mr. Ruskin seemed to have missed.)


Georgie Burne-Jones
What she might have thought
(but was too polite to say out loud):

"Well, thanks for that, Mr. Ruskin.
Never mind that I might want to
 cut my own drawings..."

 
He dismissed Georgie Burne-Jones' woodcutting attempts as something that would not "interfere with any motherly care or duty. I can't imagine anything prettier or more useful than cutting one's husband's drawings on a woodblock."

Despite this condescending remark, Georgiana and her husband Ned would remain quite fond of and loyal to Ruskin all their lives. One of Ruskin's acts of spontaneous generosity was to the Burne-Jones family when their second infant died, with Georgie nearly dying as well: he paid for the street infront of their house to be covered in hay to muffle the noise of passing carriages so that Georgie could rest and recover.

Of course, from the point of view of the 21st century, Ruskin's sexism seems crass. (As does this rejection letter from Disney Studios to a female artist in 1938 which basically tells her "No girls allowed".) To see a dismissal of women artists in actual print or said aloud is infuriating to our modern ears.

But Lizzie and other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood put up the good fight.



The Lady of Shallot
Elizabeth Siddal

Coming up next: The Stünners in concert!

 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Happy Birthday, Kirsty!


Happy (belated) birthday to Kirsty Walker-- you know her here, of course:
                             http://fannycornforth.blogspot.com/

The above cartoon features my excuse to draw Fred Stephens again, with Fanny Cornforth urging him on. Annie Miller and Alexa Wilding, whom I've never drawn before, are conspiring in the background.

Oh, and of course, ubiquitous Top the Wombat.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fanboy Rossetti



This is the accompaniment to the previous post, Ford Madox Brown Meets Young Rossetti.
I did this cartoon for Verity Holloway after she went to the trouble of tracking down and emailing me a copy of the full letter, which, for the life of me, I couldn't find excerpts of in any of my books. (I think I owe her another cartoon for that...)

This is Dante Gabriel Rossetti's younger brother, William Michael, fellow early PRB member who actually went on to marry Ford Madox Brown's oldest daughter Lucy. (Lucy was taught by her father and went on to become a painter in her right, as did  her younger half-sister Catherine. Brown himself didn't skimp on educating his girls in his techniques.)

William Michael will pop up again-- so far I've only depicted him being disparaging of Rossetti's model Fanny Cornforth here.

Coming up next: Lizzie's Trouble With Ruskin.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Ford Madox Brown Meets Young Rossetti






 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


I had just finished reading Into the Frame: The Four Loves of Ford Madox Brown by Angela Thirlwell and I felt the need to show how Ford Madox Brown met Dante Gabriel Rossetti (back when he still signed his name Gabriel Charles Rossetti). This misunderstanding and ensuing confrontation actually happened but of course not in as silly a way as shown above.

Ford Madox Brown made a brief appearance in one of my earlier cartoons, getting into a row with William Holman Hunt. (We'll get to their real antagonism towards each other shortly...)


Rossetti, being Rossetti, would end up charming his perplexed would-be art teacher. Featured in the  cartoon, we also meet Emma, Brown's model and soon-to-be wife.  Later on, in the doorway behind Rossetti, is his mother Frances Polidori (sister to Lord Byron's infamous doctor) and younger brother William Michael (with some hair this time) who would also become one of the original seven PRB brothers.

 
Young Ford Madox Brown, drawn by Rossetti.
Young D.G. Rossetti's portrait of himself,
complete with wind machine.
 
Ford Madox Brown was a well-traveled artist who had been schooled on the continent rather than the Royal Academy, so his paintings had a decidedly different, even old Flemish, flavor from what the Academy endorsed.
Ford Madox Brown, self-portrait.



This made him all the more fascinating to young Gabriel who made it his mission as a young man to rebel against the Royal Academy (where he was known as "The Italian") in any way he could. This included the way he dressed (shabby, dark clothes that were excused by everyone as "bohemian") to what artwork he favored (he was fond of medievalism.)

Because Brown had not studied at the Academy in England, but rather in Belgium, Italy and France, the older man had a pre-Renaissance flair to his painting style that intrigued the young, bored student of the Academy's Antique School.

It is argued that the older man was the first Pre-Raphaelite (even if he wasn't officially a member of the original PRB) and that his style would influence the entire Pre-Raphaelite movement to come.
 
Chaucer at the Court of Edward III, Ford Madox Brown.
Brown, like the other PRB members, often enlisted his comrades to pose for him.
Seated on the ground in the left corner is Walter Deverell wooing a girl.
(Sort of typecasting when it came to Deverell...)
 
Drawing of Emma for one of Brown's most famous
paintings, The Last of England.
Ford Madox Brown, at 27, was already a widower with a young daughter and later had a favorite live-in model named Emma Hill, who would become his second wife. Despite receiving excellent reviews for his work, he sold very few paintings. He was too different, too continental, and thus was deemed unfashionable. He often chose epic, historical scenes as his subjects as well as themes from literature, such as Chaucer and Byron.

But he was best at depicting truthful, unidealized people. This style became something the future PRB would adapt to much early scorn and derision.
              
 Rossetti decided at once that Ford Madox Brown should be his teacher.


Medallion of young Rossetti with his great hair,
sculpted by John Hancock.
 (No, not the guy who signed his name the biggest on
the Declaration of Independence.)
Now, Rossetti, being Rossetti, couldn't just ask his hero for lessons in a straightforward, politely condensed note. He went very over-the-top with a rambling fan letter full of hyperboles and florid praise that made Brown think that this had to be a joke. Brown was struggling financially and nobody seemed to want his paintings. Also, he worked too slowly and meticulously on each painting, frequently second-guessing and correcting himself. Though he remained true to his vision and not caving in to fashion, he was still not pumping out art fast enough to support himself. Moody and depressed, Ford took offense at the snot-nosed kid who was clearly mocking him.

At his point, I want to thank the awesome Verity Holloway, fountain of knowledge for all things Rossettian, for her assistance in finding the actual letter in its entirety and taking the time to email it to me. Some highlights:
 
Young Ford in a less agitated reading state, painted by young Johnny Millais. 
 
"Sir,--
I am a student in the Antique School of the Royal Academy. Since the first time  I ever went to an exhibition (which was several years ago, and when I saw a picture of yours from Byron's Giaour ) I have listened with avidity if your name happened to be mentioned, and rushed first of all to your number in the Catalogue..."
 
He goes on to list the "glorious works" Brown had exhibited which "successively raised my admiration and kept me standing on the same spot for fabulous lengths of time."
 
Yes, he does use the word "fabulous". Read on.

He tells how he hung up on his wall Brown's published Abstract Representation of Justice (with an accompanying engraved illustration) and that it was the "sole adornment of my room". And in a long tangent, he goes on to describe his humble room: "Small and bare and uncared-for it was, but how many hours which in retrospect seem glorious hours, have I not passed in it with my brother! How many books have we not read to one another..." Etc, etc.
 
Now we get to the actual point of the letter:

"It is not therefore to be wondered at if, wishing to obtain some knowledge of colour (which I have as yet scarcely attempted), the hope suggests itself that you might possibly admit pupils to profit from your invaluable assistance. In such is being the case, you would do me the honour to inform me what your terms would be for six months' instructions, I feel convinced that I should then have some chance in Art.
--I remain, Sir, very truly yours,
Gabriel C. Rossetti"
 
 You can just imagine Ford Madox Brown's reaction to this. "You've got to be kidding me."

After confronting Rossetti with his stick in hand, he soon came to the realization that this was not exaggeration on the younger man's part, that this was just how the kid talked. He was invited in by the Rossetti family, given the name "Signor Bruno" (Italian for "Brown") and agreed to tutor Rossetti, waiving any fee that was proposed. From Brown, Rossetti would first hear of a brotherhood of German Romantic artists called the Nazarenes, whose movement would become inspirational to another group soon to be started in secret.

Over the years, Brown would show considerable generosity to his former pupil, lending him money and advice and, yes, his coat.
 
Ford Madox Brown's self-portrait in later years, with added
beard and unusual hairstyle courtesy of Emma.
The older Rossetti, still borrowing stuff from Bruno.


 
The kicker to all this was that even after Brown began giving his new young friend lessons (for free, remember!) Rossetti became bored of drawing and painting educational still-lifes and promptly
enlisted a new teacher. This would be William Holman Hunt, his fellow PRB co-founder and also a Royal Academy student who shared his love for pre-Renaissance art.
 
Holman Hunt and Brown viewed each other with distrust and it was one of the reasons Brown was not invited to officially join the secret Brotherhood... not that he was into such foolishness...
Brown was understandably angry (not to mention hurt) but still managed to remain one of Rossetti's most loyal friends throughout his life.
 
"But damn it, he still owes me money, the little punk."
 

Coming up next: Fanboy Rossetti.