Sunday 8 February 2015

A Trip to NYC for The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy

Last summer, WMSC member Lera Kotsyuba visited The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. She sent us this review in a timely manner - it is this blogger's fault that it is being posted so tardily.

The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy

Walking past ancient and medieval artifacts, behind the central rotunda, is the exhibition titled “The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy,” set with the intimacy of a small chapel. The secluded space and soft lighting give the gallery a feeling of quiet contemplation, with sounds from the rest of the museum muted by the gallery walls. Showcasing the true spirit behind the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, a meeting and collaboration between the arts and crafts is evident in the pieces chosen for the exhibition. Sketches by Dante Gabriel Rossetti are amid tapestries by Edward Burne-Jones and John Henry Dearle, and books by the Kelmscott Press stand in the centre.

A room that grants intimacy between the viewer and the objects on display, the smaller setting provides the opportunity to truly examine the works up close, an opportunity not as easily available in other parts of the gallery. Although protected by glass, the brushstrokes of The Love Song by Burne-Jones can be studied and compared to those of Lady Lilith by Rossetti. Offering quiet contemplation, the gallery space houses exemplary pieces from the Arts and Crafts movement. Textiles, from the decorative Angeli Laundantes tapestry to the woven designs of Bird by William Morris, and pottery by William de Morgan portray the romantic and imaginative spirit of the Pre-Raphaelites. With approaches to all manner of crafts, the care and artistry of each piece is evident. The Backgammon Players cabinet is exemplary of the Arts and Crafts movement, designed by Burne-Jones and Philip Webb, the cabinet is a work that showcases painting, craft, wood-working, furniture-building and iron-work all in one item.  Placed at eye level, I had the opportunity to peruse every detail (but the interior). Carved, painted, and inlaid with metalwork, the cabinet showcases the individual strengths of each craft in one piece. Similarly splendid was its placement near other domestic works, such as the glazed earthenware by de Morgan and the Bird textile by Morris. Striking a balance between domestic and art object, realizing the true potential of “joy in labour.”

The beautiful “The Well at the World’s End” was my personal favourite in the exhibition. Although encased in glass, its splendor shined through. The winding foliage of the border, with its roots in medieval manuscript roots, was a true testament to the imagination and virtuosity of Morris; the beautifully rendered natural forms of foliage and fruit were not outdone by the deft hand of the illustration by Burne-Jones. Placed next to Aubrey Vincent Beardsley’s frame for Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur, drawing focus to the lasting impression that the movement had on those that followed in later years.

I spent over an hour in this gallery alone, perusing these works of beauty, from the soulful eyes of Jane Morris, as drawn by Rossetti, to the vivacity of brushwork by Burne-Jones, the exhibition allows a personal acquaintance with many works that demonstrate the ideals of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Thank you, Lera! You can see more of Lera's photographs on her Flickr account here.

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