Margarette Frederick, Adjunct Curator of the Delaware Art Museum's Bancroft Collection, has written us an excellent introduction to their currently-touring Pre-Raphaelite collection. Please do try to see this show if you get a chance; it shines a light on the formation of the Arts & Crafts movement and its intersection with the premiere fine art movement of the era, and is chock-full of some really stunning paintings and a wide range of decorative items.
Waking Dreams: the Art of the Pre-Raphaelites from the Delaware Art Museum, an exhibition of pre-Raphaelite paintings, drawings and arts and crafts, is currently touring the United States. The exhibition, now on view at the McNay Art Museum in San Antoinio TX, will continue on to the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota FL, opening January 28, 2006 (closing April 2, 2006). The exhibition features 130 objects, forty of which are Arts and Crafts.
In 1848 a group of seven young British artists and writers gathered together in mutual support of new directions in contemporary art – in a move away from the established London art institutions of the day. The group consisted of the artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and James Collins; the sculptor Thomas Woolner; and the writers William Michael Rossetti (brother of Dante Gabriel) and Frederick George Stephens. Looking back to art created before the time of the Renaissance artist Raphael, their primary aim was to paint directly from nature in an honest manner that rejected the painterly brushwork and contrived compositions currently in vogue at the Royal Academy. The bright jewel-like color and close attention to detail, typical of early Italian art, featured prominently in their work.
Late in 1856 William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, students together since 1853 at Oxford University, met Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The three men bonded in their enthusiasm for art and literature of the Middle Ages, in particular for Mallory’s “Morte d’Arthur.” At the end of 1856 Morris and Burne-Jones moved into Rossetti’s old rooms in Red Lion Square, London. Morris set about designing furnishings which were then ordered from a local cabinet maker. Two of the painted chairs from this suite are featured in this exhibition. The decoration is loosely based on the poetry of William Morris. The earliest chair, painted at the end of 1856 is taken from Morris’ poem Rapunzel and depicts Gwendolen in the witch tower with the Prince below kissing her long golden hair This chair includes Morris’ calligraphy, “Glorious Guendolen’s golden hair” referring to lines from his poem. The second chair, The Arming of a Knight, depicts a medieval woman bestowing her glove of “favour” on a knight. These chairs and the design of this furniture signal the beginning of Morris’ engagement with the decorative arts. Shortly thereafter (1861), Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company was founded and the Arts and Crafts movement was born. The decorative arts included in this collection represent a broad survey of works produced in England in the 19th and early 20th century.
The history of the Delaware Art Museum’s pre-Raphaelite collection is a landmark in American 19th century art patronage. Samuel Bancroft, the Quaker, the Wilmington-based textile mill owner reminisced that in 1880 upon viewing his first Pre-Raphaelite he was “shocked with delight.” Bancroft’s decision to collect Pre-Raphaelite art was highly unusual, both within the local community and in the United States as a whole. Even today, his collection, bequeathed by his descendents to the Delaware Art Museum in 1935, is one of only a handful in the United States focusing on British Art of the 19th century.
Exhibition venues and dates for Waking Dreams following the Ringling Museum showing include: Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa OK (April 22 – July 2); Frick Art and Historical Center, Pittsburgh PA (July 29 – October 8); Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati OH (October 28 – January 7, 2007); Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis MO (2007 February 3 – April 15); San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego CA (May 5 – July 15, 2007). The collection will re-open in newly renovated permanent collection galleries at the Delaware Art Museum in the Fall of 2007.
For further information regarding the Bancroft collection and or the Waking Dreams tour please contact Margaretta S. Frederick, Adjunct Curator, Bancroft Collection, Delaware Art Museum, 2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington DE; 302.351.8518; email@example.com.
Thanks to the Delaware Art Museum for the image above. William Morris, 1834-1896 / Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1828-1882: Glorious Gwendolen's Golden Hair, 1856 painted deal, leather, and nails Delaware Art Museum, Acquired through the Bequest of Doris Wright Anderson and through the F. V. du Pont Acquisition Fund, 1997 / 1997-13