Pre-Raphaelitism in Dundee

Last week I was at the Wildering Phantasies conference in Dundee, which was very enjoyable, informative and inspiring. The programme was very varied, including a really good and diverse range of papers and keynotes, as well as other events including a screening of Ken Russell’s film Dante’s Inferno (terrifying and hilarious in equal measures!), a visit to Dundee’s McManus Gallery, and an exhibition at the university’s own Lamb Gallery. The McManus is housed in a great Gothic building, and has some interesting works in their collection, such as Millais’s (rather chocolate-box) Puss in Boots, some marvellous Morris/Burne-Jones stained glass (the cartoons of which are in Birmingham), and, of course, Rossetti’s Dante’s Dream (left). I was also fascinated to see the work of Joseph Noel Paton, a painter with whose work I was unfamiliar, but who manifests distinct Pre-Raphaelite tendencies.

I found out more about Paton at the Lamb Gallery in the university, where a special exhibition on ‘Noel Paton and the Pre-Raphaelites’ was being held. The exhibition includes a range of paintings by Pre-Raphaelite and associated painters, some owned by the university and some by Dundee Museums and Galleries. These paintings include the work of Frederick and Emma Sandys, and pencil drawings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti including ‘Delia’ and a study for Dante’s Dream. There was also a lovely Millais self portrait of 1883. As well as some books, the exhibition also contained paintings by Scottish painters associated with the Pre-Raphaelites, including Paton. I was interested to hear that Paton had in fact been asked to join the PRB, but declined (largely on geographical reasons, as far as I know). His paintings, such as The Dowie Dens o’ Yarrow (1860) (right), make particularly interesting viewing for those of us with a Pre-Raphaelite interest.

Overall I had a splendid time, met many interesting people and have lots of enthusiasm and good ideas for my own work, too. Despite the lengthy round-trip (though not as long as many other attendees) it was well worth the trouble.

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