On Saturday June 21st I will be giving a free lecture at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, on the Pre-Raphaelite collections. The talk is entitled ‘Pre-Raphaelitism and Poetry: Looking Back in Time’, and will last about half an hour. Birmingham has a wonderful collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, so do come along at 2.30 and join me.
We will explore how the Pre-Raphaelites engaged with literature and literary history to create a medieval aesthetic which fitted in with their artistic and literary ethos. We will look particularly at reworkings of Dante, and the PRB’s interest in Arthurian literature, focusing on the work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Alexander Munro and Ford Madox Brown, among others.
Literature, especially poetry, was very important to the Pre-Raphaelites, who drew up a list of ‘Immortals’, which included many poets. Rossetti considered himself a poet first and a painter second at some stages of his life, though this is not how posterity remembers him. Inspired by the past, especially the Italian poet Dante, with whom the Rossetti family were fascinated, there are many artistic reworkings of earlier poets. Equally, the Pre-Raphaelite preoccupation with medievalism, which is especially clear in the work of William Morris, led to an interest in Arthurian literature (a wider Victorian interest, thinking of Tennyson’s Idylls of the King). These ideas and more will be explored in my talk.
This is one of several lectures organised by Dr Clara Dawson, Department of English, University of Birmingham. There is more information on the BMAG website here.