Pre-Raphaelites back with London show

Tue Jun 23, 2009 10:57am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Victorian art is making a comeback in London this summer with a major exhibition, and the biggest retrospective to date, of works by John William Waterhouse, who died in 1917.

The exhibition at the Royal Academy, which runs from June 27 to September 13, is seen by critics as the latest step in a broader movement to re-establish the reputation of Waterhouse and the genre he is most closely associated with -- the Pre-Raphaelites.

"After years in the wilderness, the Pre-Raphaelites are again in the spotlight, and quite rightly," wrote Franny Moyle in Britain's Telegraph newspaper.

Waterhouse was born in Rome to British parents in 1849, and the same year the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood -- William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti -- delivered their manifesto challenging the "official" art promoted by the Royal Academy.

Waterhouse inherited their taste for Tennyson, Keats and Shakespeare, and the escapist, dreamlike quality of his works was also common to the school, perhaps most famously represented by Millais' ghostly "Ophelia."

But he also developed an interest in classical mythology through Homer and Ovid, whose works he interpreted in his eerie, atmospheric paintings, and his brushwork had moved away from the meticulous realism of the original Pre-Raphaelites.


From early in his career, Waterhouse was striving to be noticed in a crowded arena.   Continued...

<p>Pre-Raphaelite artist John William Waterhouse's painting "The Lady of Shalott" is seen in this undated handout photograph made available by the Royal Academy of Art in London June 23, 2009. REUTERS/Tate/Handout</p>