Archive for the category “Articles”

Review: The Pre-Raphaelite – Victorian Avant Garde Exhibition at Tate Britain

This exhibition is on until January, and we managed to get tickets on the day although we had to wait a few hours and it was still very, very busy. Tickets are £14.

Ideally you would walk around this exhibition by yourself, listening to King Charles songs and wearing something floaty. Of course, that wasn’t my reality. Nonetheless, I’m really glad I went. At first I felt a little ripped off, since the really great stuff was paintings that you could see downstairs for free most of the year. But by the end I had seen in the flesh for the first time some amazing pieces of art, sculpture and textiles, and came away with a nuanced understanding of  the PRB’s influences and influential effect on their world.

The exhibition is arranged into seven rooms simply by subject matter (nature, beauty, salvation, etc) and also loosely by chronological progression. It includes work by artists outside of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, including William Morris’ incredible fabrics and tapestries, and Julia Margaret Cameron’s photographs. Comparing her work to paintings was especially interesting – the PRB’s women are so idealized, striking, and larger than life that you assume them to be fantasies, yet her photographs capture the same beauty, same attention to strong facial structures, and same haunting luminosity.

Also of particular interest was the sub-narrative of the PRB’s lovers, wives and models – an ever-present theme when their work is shown collectively, but particularly emphasized by this exhibition – and those women’s contributions to and collaborative effects on the paintings.

Too often the role of muse is cast as an empty, passive, and powerless one, but these women are at the heart of the PRB’s work and were often responsible for much of the composition, including choosing costumes and even poses. I know these paintings so well that watching the transformation of Elizabeth Siddal through the PRB’s work, culminating in Rossetti’s ‘Beata Beatrix’ painted a year after she died (probably from suicide) is always an emotional experience, and that particular painting for all its apparent simplicity feels crowded with his guilt and sorrow, and some

other, more complicated emotions – his idolization of her beauty, his place in a long tradition of art that saw women primarily as embodying abstract concepts. It, like all of their work, is best appreciated for the careful and poignant construction of a narrative through the details of the painting – the white poppy representing the laudanum that killed her, the derivation fromDante’s poem of love from first sight to death – this is one of the reasons why I keep coming back to their work. They hark back to medieval or greek mythology (as well as biblical, Shakespearean, and other stories) but in a similar way to WB Yeats use of Fenian mythology to express his country’s contemporary plight, their use of these narratives only proves their timelessness. Their women, for better or worse, really were Lillith, Proserpine, and Mary to them.

I think the arrangement of this exhibition, for all its overwhelming profusion of sensuous light and colour, flesh and nature, releases the PRB once and for all from the accusations of ‘beauty for beauty’s sake’. Because of the ‘avant-garde’ nature of their work, and their ancient subject matters, it is often hard to reconcile them with our other imaginings of Victorian Britain. But if you visit this exhibition for one reason, let it be the explanation it puts forth of their interconnected place in our artistic history.

Changing Faces

I’m sorry I haven’t blogged for a while. There are a lot of reasons like emotional upheaval, no money for new clothes, bad weather making photo shoots impossible etc, but they are all excuses for not posting regular content I guess. I’m undergoing something of a weight loss journey. Actually weight loss doesn’t really cover it. After three years of not looking after my body, it is more of a detox and a tone up than weight loss. I believe in the plus size aesthetic, and I believe in the beauty of curves (not to the exclusion of other forms I should add) which is one reason why this has been so hard. I believe that I have to lose some weight and lower my BMI in order to be healthy again, but I don’t particularly want to lose dress sizes, and I especially don’t want to lose my curves! They are hardly going to disappear completely ha ha, but nonetheless I wasn’t prepared for the mental effects of weight loss. Having always been plus sized, the biggest of my friends, and what people like to call ‘voluptuous’, (I think making that word a synonym for bubbly has unfortunately taken all the sexy right out of it) changing my size and shape has been a little like losing a part of my identity. That may sound extreme, but one of the millions of things that identify my has always been large breasts, a big ass, etc. Of course, it is what is inside that counts. Of course, personality is most important to the people that matter. But it feels a little strange nonetheless. Where I used to be an hourglass, I am becoming more of a pearshape for instance, and I will need to learn to dress accordingly. But in the meantime, I do intend to start blogging regularly again! Apart from anything else, I believe in the power of the blogosphere to change media, advertising and culture, and tapping in to that community is a great source of strength. Before, when I wasn’t paying that much attention to my body the thin ideal never bothered me or interfered with my life that much (apart from my shopping options) – it just seemed so far away from me as to be irrelevant. Now that I have started thinking a little about what things I feel I need to change (diet, general fitness, bulge around the middle?) mainstream images of women have, suddenly, become so much more apparent to me. Going to the gym for instance you cannot avoid the public screens with everything from the pussy cat dolls to weathergirls on screen constantly, and such bombardment really does begin to affect you. Perhaps it doesn’t quite warp a strongly held perspective, but it certainly begins to blind you, if you like, as to the variation and size of real life. With that in mind, I’d like to share a magazine with you which I recently came across. If you haven’t discovered it already, this kind of magazine is a pretty great alternative to the popular ones. Just flipping through this kind of publication is a balm that reminds you of the beauty and normality of different kinds of human body:

PLUS MODEL MAGAZINE – this issue has particularly great nude photos in!

Please let me know if these are sentiments that you have ever experienced while undergoing a physical change …

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: