Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Artist Muse

The Lady of the Willows
imbued with sensuality 
wild and mysterious 
as the moonlit groves 
of an ancient forest 
in wordless rapture 
basks in unity
with nature. 

challenge in 160 text characters 
Black chalk on paper, dated 1865, 31.5 x 34.5cm, Private collection

'Water Willow', of Jane Morris (1839-1914), by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)
O il on canvas, dated 1871, 33 x 26.7cm, Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R Bancroft Memorial, 1935.  This painting documents the first period Rossetti and Jane Morris spent together at Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire. Rossetti made it to fit a beautiful old frame.

Jane Burden Morris (1839-1914), inspired numerous works by Rossetti and his friends, among them the painter-poet William Morris whom she would marry in 1859. Jane was a remarkable beauty, destined to play a major role in Rossetti’s idealized and symbolic portraits of “stunners”—beautiful women shown at close range in often exotic settings. 

 Pencil on paper, dated 1857, 47.6 x 33cm,
The Society of Antiquaries of London (Kelmscott Manor) 
In 1869, the American writer Henry James described her as having “a thin pale face, a pair of strange, sad, deep, dark Swinburnish eyes [a reference to the poems of the late Victorian writer Algernon Charles Swinburne], with great thick black oblique brows, joined in the middle and tucking themselves away under her hair.” Jane, the daughter of a humble stableman, was discovered by Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones in an Oxford theater. Thanks to her captivating looks, she was spared a life of poverty and a future in domestic service. Through Morris she was educated privately, mastering French and Italian as well as the piano.

Pencil on paper, dated Aug. 12 1870, 24.1 x 45.1cm, 
The Society of Antiquaries of London (Kelmscott Manor)