An exhibition which offers a rare opportunity to see the art of leading Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti in Argyll and Bute is entering its final fortnight.
Key works by the highly influential Victorian painter and poet are displayed in Dante in Dunoon at Dunoon Burgh Hall, a coup for the historic award-winning venue. The exhibition ends on Sunday 11 June. A major exhibition is currently attracting crowds at Tate Britain. The London show focuses on Rosetti and his inner artistic circle, while the Dunoon show is devoted solely to Rosetti.
Dunoon Burgh Hall has become a vibrant cultural hub following its refurbishment six years ago. Dante in Dunoon has been many years in the planning, with staff at the Burgh Hall working with curators at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
Dante in Dunoon is a theme which originated with Degas for Dunoon, which visitors flocked to see in 2018.
Rossetti’s sensuous artworks, created during an era of innovation and industrialisation in Victorian England, reinterpret medieval and religious subject matter with a keen observational and symbolic style.
As a founding member of what was known as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Rossetti and his group of fellow artists sought to disrupt what they viewed as the staid academic art establishment. The group aimed to return to the sense of moral and religious purpose and clarity they saw in early Renaissance painting.
Dunoon Burgh Hall’s Holly McAllister said: “This exhibition is a chance to observe Rossetti’s artistic process and literary preoccupations through preparatory drawings, watercolours and oil paintings created throughout the artist’s illustrious career. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery have kindly loaned the works.
“Visitors have been wowed by the works, which include his stunning oil painting The Boat of Love and the delicate watercolour, Morning Music.”
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (12 May 1828 – 9 April 1882) was born Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti in London in 1828. His father was an Italian political exile and Dante scholar, and his mother was of English and Italian heritage.
Alongside his siblings, the poet Christina Rossetti, and the critic William Michael Rossetti, he grew up in a household that was modest in wealth but rich in literary and artistic influence. He was torn as a young man between devotion to painting or poetry.
Rossetti became a painter, training at the Royal Academy, yet he continued to write poetry and translate Italian literary work. His fascination with the work of the medieval Florentine poet Dante Alighieri, whose work La Vita Nuova he translated in The Early Italian Poets, is evident in the works exhibited here.
As a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848, Rossetti interpreted the term as synonymous with a romanticised medieval past. He inspired the next generation of artists and writers, particularly William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, and his work influenced the European Symbolists. It paved the way for the Aesthetic Movement.
An accomplished draughtsman, throughout the 1850s and 1860s, Rossetti drew and painted languorous, idealised female portraits, often evoking literary or mythological references. Although these ethereal women were modelled on Rossetti’s friends and lovers, including Elizabeth Siddal, Christina Rossetti challenged the objectification of female beauty in the poem The Artist’s Studio.
Rossetti died in 1882 in Birchington-on-Sea, Kent.