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The Day the Thames Froze Over

Frost Fair of 1684

Frost Fair of 1684

I first read about the Thames in London freezing over a few years ago, and it really caught my imagination.  Between 1309 and 1814 (during the Little Ice Age), the Thames froze at least 23 times, and on five of these occasions the ice was thick enough to hold a "frost fair." Tents and booths were set up on the ice with food (roast ox), drink (gin), and games (bull baiting and fox hunting).  Some tents contained brothels. At the last frost fair, in 1814, an Elephant was led across the ice at Blackfriars Bridge. The Thames has not frozen solid since. 

Slate just ran a piece on the printers who set up printing presses on the ice and churned out engraved and letter-pressed sheets of paper as souvenirs. These souvenirs contained verses and engravings of the festivities.


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Fantasy Dresses

I just came across these fantastic and fantastical dresses from Romanian dress shop Chotronette. Now all I need is to be invited to a ball......


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Pre-Raphaelite Inspiration on Pinterest

Fashions for September 1850

Fashions for September 1850

I finally put up a Pinterest board with many of the images of Pre-Raphaelite painting, photographs, settings, and fashion that I looked at while writing Ophelia's Muse. Check it out to see pictures of the magnificent Crystal Palace from the Great Exposition of 1851, the house where the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded, and what a Victorian millinery might have looked like.

I also include many of the paintings both of and by Lizzie Siddal, including her self-portrait and many of the sketches of her that Dante Gabriel made. It's interesting to compare their two views of her side by side.

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Jimmy Page on the Pre-Raphaelites

There's a fantastic interview in this week's Financial Times with Jimmy Page, guitarist from Led Zeppelin, on his admiration for all things Pre-Raphaelite and Arts & Crafts. The interview takes place in the Leighton House Museum, which is around the corner from Page's own historic house, Tower House.  Tower House is a Victorian era home dominated by a gothic-revival turret and designed by the architect and designer William Burges, "who sought artistic refuge from industrialisation in a fantasy vision of the Middle Ages."

Page speaks about scouring second-hand shops for Arts & Crafts furniture in the sixties and seventies, and his fascination with the Pre-Raphaelites.  He tells the FT that "I got just caught up in that whole romantic notion of the Pre-Raphaelites, the mission they were on [to revolutionise art]. It was something that really captured my imagination, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.”

Check out the rest of this fantastic interview here.

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Creating a Pre-Raphaelite Guide to London and Environs

The Tate Britain 

The Tate Britain 

While working on Ophelia's Muse, I was lucky enough to be able to be able to visit many of the paintings and locations in and around London that I was writing about. Some locations, such as Cranbourne Alley, where Lizzie worked as a milliner crafting bonnets, are long gone. But others, like Hyde Park, can take you back to Victorian days with just a squint of the eyes and a little imagination. And there were many places to see Pre-Raphaelite painting and Victorian artifacts - some major ones are the Tate Britain, where Millais's painting of Ophelia hangs, and the Leighton House Museum, the painter Frederic, Lord Leighton's stunning home and studio, which houses a collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings. 

Leighton House

Leighton House

I'm putting together a list of must-see Pre-Raphaelite locations in London and the surrounding towns, for fans of the book and others interested in the movement. There are so many great websites out there, I'm hoping that the list can serve as a guide for both armchair online exploration and visitors to the area. 

If you have a favorite Pre-Raphaelite or Victorian museum, house, location, or shop, please share them with me and I'll add them to the list!

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Upcoming Exhibit: Marie Spartali Stillman at the Delaware Art Museum

Love's Messenger, 1885. Marie Spartali Stillman

Love's Messenger, 1885. Marie Spartali Stillman

I'm looking forward to the upcoming exhibit, Poetry in Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelite Art of Marie Spartali Stillman, at the Delaware Art Museum in November. It will open just in time for my annual visit to family on the East Coast for the holidays! The exhibit is being co-curated by the Museum’s Chief Curator, Margaretta Frederick,  and Jan Marsh, the Pre-Rapahelite scholar. (Among many of Marsh's wonderful books on the Pre-Rapahelites, I particularly love The Pre-Raphaelites: Their Lives in Letters and Diaries.)

Spartali Stillman was one of just a few female artists working professionally in the 19th Century, Spartali Stillman's work reflected both her association with the Pre-Rapahelite circle and the influence of her time living and working in Italy. She studied under Ford Madox Brown, and painted scenes from Shakespeare, Dante, and Boccaccio, among others, as well as landscapes.  She was also a popular model, and sat for many artists of the time, including the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.

Hopefully this new exhibit will bring some more positive energy to the Delaware Art Museum's Pre-Rapahelite collection after the unfortunate sale of Hunt's Isabella and the Pot of Basil last year.

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Pre-Raphaelite Works on Paper at the Tate Britain

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When I think of Pre-Raphaelite art, the first thing that comes to mind is large jewel-toned canvases dense with color, light, and beauty.  But the sketches - some preparatory, some casual - as well as smaller works in watercolor, often give us a glimpse into more intimate moments and into the artistic process itself. A collection of 60 of these works, including sketchbooks, scraps, and even backs of envelopes, is on view now through the spring of 2017 at the Tate Britain.

From the website: "The preparatory sketches and more finished works on paper on view in this room explore personal dramas, tense and tender encounters sometimes in private settings. The detailed studies reveal another kind of close encounter between artist and subject: the long, intimate observation that underpinned Pre-Raphaelite ‘truth to nature’."

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This Daily Mail article combines two of my great loves - the Pre-Raphaelites and real estate. Apparently John Everett Millais' apartment in Kensington is on the market for five million pounds. If only he had that amazing soaking tub when he painted Ophelia, maybe Lizzie Siddal wouldn't have caught a chill posing in a cold tub in his drafty studio!


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William Morris Prints and Wallpaper

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William Morris was an artist and designer who was a close associate of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and leader of the British Arts and Crafts movement.  His company, Morris & Co., produced medieval-influenced textiles, stained glass, wallpaper, and other decorative arts.  Many Pre-Raphaelite artists, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones produced designs for Morris’s firm.  Morris’s designs were inspired by plants and nature, medieval tapestries, and illuminated manuscripts.  Their most popular prints featured stylized flower trellises, fruits, and birds. Fans of Morris’s prints can still get wall paper and textiles in a variety of styles, including fabrics from Liberty of London.

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