Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Beatrix - Redux

Beata Beatrix (1863) -- Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The poet, painter, and designer Dante Gabriel Rossetti, b. Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, May 12, 1828, d. Apr. 9, 1882, was a cofounder of the PRE-RAPHAELITES, a group of English painters and poets who hoped to bring to their art the richness and purity of the medieval period. The son of the exiled Italian patriot and scholar Gabriele Rossetti and a brother of the poet Christina Rossetti, Dante showed literary talent early, winning acclaim for his poem The Blessed Damozel (1847) before he was 20 years old. As a student at the Royal Academy Antique School (1845-47), he met William Holman Hunt and John Millais, with whom he launched the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848.
Rossetti's first Pre-Raphaelite paintings in oils, based on religious themes and with elements of mystical symbolism, were The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849) and Ecce Ancilla Domini (1850), both in the Tate Gallery, London. Although he won support from John Ruskin, criticism of his paintings caused him to withdraw from public exhibitions and turn to watercolors, which could be sold privately. Subjects taken from Dante Alighieri's Vita Nuova (which Rossetti had translated into English) and Sir Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur inspired his art in the 1850s. His visions of Arthurian romance and medieval design also inspired his new friends of this time, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones.
Romantic love was Rossetti's main theme in both poetry and painting. Elizabeth Siddal, whom he married in 1860, was the subject of many fine drawings, and his memory of her after she died (1862) is implicit in the Beata Beatrix (1863; Tate Gallery, London). Toward the end of his life, Rossetti sank into a morbid state, possibly induced by his disinterment (1869) of the manuscript poems he had buried with his wife and by savage critical attacks on his poetry. He spent his last years as an invalid recluse. (WebMuseum, Paris )

As per my comment here, Rossetti was an extraordinary artist whose favorite subject was the wife of William Morris, Jane. A perfect exemplar of Victorian beauty, Jane succombed to Rossetti's advances. Morris, like a King Arthur, knew full well of the affair between his beloved and good friend, but subsumed his pain into his own prolific artistry in poetry, languages, arts and crafts.

Leveling our gaze, settling for less than the true transcendence of God will lead to similar paths as suffered by this artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.


Athos said...

Since we've christened our Massketeer "Beatrice" of choice, 'thought I'd mention the Pre-Rafaelite Brotherhood again. Porthos knows it is/was a misnomer, but it identifies a fine group of British artists who looked back toward a realism that juxtaposes with truth, goodness and beauty.

Rossetti, sadly, found deviated transcendence in the arms of the wife of the grand old man of the Pre-Rafaelites, William Morris.

Sigh. Right gesture, wrong Lady.

Porthos said...

Victorians . . . Edwardians . . . Randy buggers, the lot of 'um. Is there any biography of literary or artistic figures in that time zone that doesn't have the same kind of stuff? My pop gave me a biography of novelist Henry Green (friend of Waugh's), and whew!

What does Snoop Dog have on those rascals? Not a whole lot.

Thanks for the legacy, guys. Blazed a fine trail for us poor sods of latter eras.