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Pre-Raphaelite Treasures at National Museums Liverpool
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Table of Contents

Introduction The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood The Later Pre-Raphaelites Liverpool Pre-Raphaelites Further reading Index

About the Author

Dr Laura MacCulloch is the former Curator of British Art at National Museums Liverpool, and current College Curator at Royal Holloway, University of London. While at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery she curated Ford Madox Brown: The Unofficial Pre-Raphaelite, catalogued paintings, prints and drawings for their award winning Pre-Raphaelite online resource and completed her PhD thesis on Brown's works on paper.

Reviews

In the vast output of publications on the Pre-Raphaelites,(1) readers of Cercles may be excused if this attractive little monograph has escaped their notice. The author has impeccable credentials for writing on the Pre-Raphaelites: after her M.Phil. dissertation on 'The influence of Japan on Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1854-1872' at the University of Birmingham, School of Fine Arts, 2005 and her Ph.D. Thesis obtained in 2009 at the same School on 'Ford Madox Brown : Works on paper and archive material at Birmingham museums and art gallery',(2) she curated Ford Madox Brown: The Unofficial Pre-Raphaelite, an exhibition held at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery from 24 August to 14 December 2008, and contributed to the Catalogue.(3) The Introduction by Sandra Penketh, Director of Art Galleries, National Museums Liverpool, reminds us that 'National Museums Liverpool holds one of the most significant collections of Pre-Raphaelite art in the country' [7], as visitors to the Ford Madox Brown retrospective in Manchester (2011-2012) (4) and the major Exhibition at the Tate in 2012-2013 (5) cannot have failed to notice if they looked at the provenance of the works lent, many of them featuring in Pre-Raphaelite Treasures. Her short text is invaluable in that it explains to readers who do not immediately see the connection between the Pre-Raphaelites and Liverpool that the wealthy 'mercantile collectors' [9] of Merseyside had an interest in the art of their time and bought many pictures now seen as part of the canon of Pre-Raphaelitism, like the oil which provides the cover illustration, John Everett Millais' The Black Brunswickers of 1860 [Plate 34], bought by William Lever (1851-1925), nowadays of Unilever fame, in 1898, with the money coming from his highly successful Sunlight Soap, made just across from Liverpool in the factory-cum-model-village which he built on the south bank of the Mersey estuary, Port Sunlight, in the 1890s. The soap manufacturer, who had by then become Viscount Leverhulme, also bought The Scapegoat (1854-55) by William Holman Hunt [Plate on double-page spread, 28-29] for the then considerable sum of GBP5,000 in 1923 (the artist is reported to have sold the picture originally for 450 guineas [GBP472.50]). The year before, Lever had founded the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight, now part of National Museums Liverpool. The trustees also bought in 1986 a well-known canvas of 1859 by Millais which had originally belonged to Lever, Spring (Apple Blossoms) [Plate 33]. National Museums Liverpool, on top of 'inheriting' the Lever collection, is also fortunate in comprising the major collection built up by the municipal authorities from the 19th century, and housed since 1877 at the Walker Art Gallery - named after a mayor and benefactor who had made his money in beer. The founding fathers of the Walker Art Gallery acquired three major works by their contemporaries, which form the backbone of the Pre-Raphaelite collections in Liverpool proper. In 1881, following its first public display-at the Gallery-they bought Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Dante's Dream of 1871 [Plate on double-page spread, 54-55] and three years later, Millais' Isabella (1848-49) [Plate on double-page spread, 20-21]. The Triumph of the Innocents by William Holman Hunt [Plate 59] was bought in 1891, directly from the author who had taken over ten years (1876-1887) to complete it. Continuing with the well-known Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces which were acquired later, we may mention, in chronological order of composition, The Stonebreaker (1857-58) by John Brett [Plate 27], The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple (1862) by William Holman Hunt [Plate 40 and inside back flap], Pandora (1878) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti [Plate 53] and The Beguiling of Merlin (1873-77) by Edward Burne-Jones [Plate 56]. Needless to say, these and lesser-known works (my favourite being the superb crayon-and-chalk portrait of Edward Lear (1857) by William Holman Hunt [Plate 30]) receive full scholarly treatment by Laura MacCulloch. While newcomers to the Pre-Raphaelites will find all the necessary background information, confirmed admirers will find plenty of new insights, notably on the intertextuality of many of the works illustrated-and many will probably discover little gems for the first time, like the magnificent caricature of Millais, Hunt and Rossetti by Frederick Sandys,(6) A Nightmare (1857) [Plate 25], a parody of A Dream of the Past : Sir Isumbras at the Ford by Millais (1857) [Plate 24]. In the vast output mentioned at the beginning, what makes this offering a unique one is the last chapter, specifically devoted to the 'Liverpool Pre-Raphaelites'. In it Laura MacCulloch particularly dwells on the links between the wealthy local patrons who endowed the institutions of Liverpool, the local art collectors with an interest in the work of the local painters associated in the Pre-Raphaelites and the artists themselves. Two further names emerge among these 'mercantile collectors': John Miller, who had made his fortune in tobacco and became William Lindsay Windus's principal patron (the rocks in his The Baa Lamb (1864) [Plate 91] are strongly reminiscent of those in the celebrated portrait (1853-54) of John Ruskin by Millais) and George Rae, a Birkenhead banker, who bought no fewer than 26 pictures from William Davis, a Dubliner who settled in Liverpool. Two are reproduced, with most welcome comments: Junction of the Liffey and Rye, near Leixlip (1857) [Plate 84] and The Rainbow (1858) [Plate 85]. Since this is a small world, one of Miller's daughters married Peter Paul Marshall of [William] Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co fame... It goes without saying that all Art School and University libraries should have a copy of this excellent monograph. Considering the wealth and quality of the full-colour illustrations (except Plate 93, which for some reason is not 'sharp' enough), the price asked is very attractive and makes it perfectly affordable to private individuals interested in the various facets, including 'local' ones, of this remarkable movement. It goes without saying that all Art School and University libraries should have a copy of this excellent monograph. Considering the wealth and quality of the full-colour illustrations, the price asked is very attractive and makes it perfectly affordable to private individuals interested in the various facets, including 'local' ones, of this remarkable movement. National Museums Liverpool (NML), incorporating major venues such as the Walker Art Gallery and the Lady Lever Art Gallery, hold a significant collection of Pre-Raphaelite art works, including paintings, works on paper and various decorative art objects. Previously some of these works have featured in books such as Scala's The Walker Art Gallery (1994) but there has been no dedicated publication to NML's Pre-Raphaelite works since Mary Bennett's Artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Circle, The First Generation: Catalogue of Works in the Walker Art Gallery, Lady Lever Art Gallery and Sudley Art Gallery (1988) and Frank Milner's The Pre-raphaelites: Pre-raphaelite paintings and drawings in Merseyside collections (1988). Pre-Raphaelite Treasures at National Museums Liverpool remedies this situation. Written by Laura MacCulloch, previously Curator of British Art at National Museums Liverpool, the book is an accessible companion to NML's Pre-Raphaelite collection, as well as to Pre-Raphaelitism more generally. The Walker Art Gallery dates from 1877, when it was built to provide a home for the exhibitions of the Liverpool Autumn Exhibitions (modelled on the Royal Academy Exhibitions in London). The Gallery made its first acquisition of Pre-Raphaelite work in 1881 with the purchase of Rossetti's Dante's Dream (1871). Acquisitions continued from this date and by the mid-twentieth century the majority of the Walker's Pre-Raphaelite collection was formed. As we learn from Pre-Raphaelite Treasures, The Lady Lever Art Gallery was founded in 1922 by William Hesketh Lever, co-founder of the soap manufacturing firm Lever Brothers and later Viscount Leverhulme, as a home for his personal art collection. Lever was particularly fond of the Pre-Raphaelites and purchased over twenty works by Millais alone. The third NML venue covered in Pre-Raphaelite Treasures is Sudley House, the home of nineteenth-century Liverpool ship-owner, George Holt, who collected contemporary art, including that of the Pre-Raphaelites. Important works held by NML include Millais's The Black Brunswicker (1860) and Isabella (1848-49), Burne-Jones's The Beguiling of Merlin (1873-77) and The Annunciation (1879), Holman Hunt's The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple (1854-65) and The Scapegoat (1854-56) and Rossetti's Dante's Dream, all of which are featured in Pre-Raphaelite Treasures. The book begins with a short Introduction by Sandra Penketh, Director of Art Galleries for National Museums Liverpool, which briefly introduces Pre-Raphaelitism and gives an overview of the origins of the Walker Art Gallery, the Lady Lever Art Gallery and Sudley House. Following this are three chapters authored by MacCulloch, 'The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood', 'The Later Pre-Raphaelites' and 'Liverpool Pre-Raphaelites'. Each chapter comprises a short overview essay on the chapter topic, followed by illustrated catalogue-style entries for selected art works. In all, seventy-one works, including both familiar and lesser-known, are illustrated and discussed in an engaging manner. The book is intended to be an accessible 'guide' rather than a scholarly account; there are no footnotes for following up sources of information and only a brief Further Reading list is included. However, the book achieves its aim to offer a 'succinct but highly informative overview of Pre-Raphaelite history and the Liverpool Pre-Raphaelites' (p. 9). For the purposes of the book, 'Pre-Raphaelite' is taken to mean the original Brotherhood members, associated figures such as Ford Madox Brown, Arthur Hughes, John Brett, Frederick Sandys, Henry Wallis, Emma Sandys. Simeon Solomon, Maria Spartali Stillman, Evelyn de Morgan and members of the 'Liverpool School', such as William Windus and James Campbell, all of whom are represented in the NML collections and in this book. This expansive understanding of Pre-Raphaelitism is welcome and one of the values of the book is that it features little-known artists, for example John Newton, Daniel Williamson and Joseph Worrall, alongside more familiar names. The book is therefore valuable in devoting space to non-canonical artists of the Pre-Raphaelite circle, who are well represented in the NML collections. A presentational quirk means that the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood is represented, through portraits on the inside front cover, as comprising five, rather than seven members, including the non-Brotherhood members William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, which might be misleading for students or those new to Pre-Raphaelitism. Aside from this, the book is beautifully produced and illustrated. Even those already knowledgeable about Pre-Raphaelitism will learn new information about the work and artists presented in Pre-Raphaelite Treasures. The book is invaluable as a guide to Pre-Raphaelitism in the NML collections and in the North-West generally. As a Liverpool-based art history lecturer I will certainly be ordering copies of the book for our university library and will encourage students to use it to support their visits to the Walker Art Gallery, the Lady Lever Art Gallery and Sudley House. It is worth noting that the book can be obtained for the best price directly from the NML online shop (or venues), rather than other online outlets, with the added benefit of the funds going directly to support NML. ... the book is beautifully produced and illustrated. Even those already knowledgeable about Pre-Raphaelitism will learn new information about the work and artists presented in Pre-Raphaelite Treasures. The book is invaluable as a guide to Pre-Raphaelitism in the NML collections and in the North-West generally. As a Liverpool-based art history lecturer I will certainly be ordering copies of the book for our university library and will encourage students to use it to support their visits to the Walker Art Gallery, the Lady Lever Art Gallery and Sudley House.

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