Friday 29 August 2014

Review of Rossetti’s Obsession: Images of Jane Morris at Lady Lever Art Gallery

Rossetti’s Obsession: Images of Jane Morris
Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight Village, Wirral
20 June – 21 September 2014

“All the world knows the masses of dark hair, the ivory complexion and exquisite features, the beautiful hands and the great grey eyes which were so unique and overwhelming in their beauty.”

On the centenary of her death, this small but enchanting exhibition brings together more than 30 paintings, drawings and photographs of Jane Morris (1839-1914), chief muse for the later works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882), and the recognisable embodiment of Pre-Raphaelite beauty. “The Lady Lever Art Gallery has one of the best Pre-Raphaelite collections in the world so we're delighted to tell the story of the relationship between two of the movement's chief protagonists,” says Sandra Penketh, Director of Art Galleries. It was a love story, but, unfulfilled and heartbreaking, since Jane, who became embroiled in the Pre-Raphaelite circle after meeting Rossetti in 1857 at an Oxford street theatre, went on to marry his friend and colleague, William Morris (1834-1896), with whom she had two daughters. After her affair with Rossetti began, however, Morris and Rossetti agreed to share the tenancy of Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire, so that Jane and Rossetti could spend time together without attracting scandal. During the years that followed, Jane sat for many of Rossetti’s greatest works. He was truly obsessed by the unconventional beauty – or handsomeness – of his model, and she, in turn, loved and cared for him after his breakdown in 1872.

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