‘Liverpool patronage was a little Galapagos’ – exploring the relationship of the Pre-Raphaelites and Liverpool by Rupert Maas
19 May 2016 by Ann
Pre-Raphaelitism has long been associated with Liverpool. The collections of National Museums Liverpool’s art galleries, namely Sudley House, Lady Lever Art Gallery and the Walker Art Gallery include a large number of Pre-Raphaelite works. Many, such as Dante’s Dream by Rossetti and the Scapegoat by Holman Hunt hold an iconic status across the globe. The history of how Liverpool and Port Sunlight came to house these collections is fascinating and diverse and carries an inspiring message of patronage and cultural enlightenment. While there have been many exhibitions exploring the movement’s history, Liverpool’s role had until recently not been explored.
The Walker Art Gallery’s current exhibition Pre-Raphaelites: Beauty and Rebellion redresses this omission and following a recent visit I was compelled to write the following:
‘It’s the Scouser skies that got me, luminous and numinous, from the little landscapes of the mid-1850s by obscure artists – William Davis and Robert Tonge, who were almost entirely supported by a few very rich Liverpudlians and hardly heard of down south – skies more interesting and more beautiful than anything happening in France at the time, let alone London. Liverpool patronage was a little Galapagos, and whatever washed up there evolved uniquely; one of the strangest flowerings from the Pre-Raphaelite seed was John Ingle Lee, whose colours are almost hallucinogenic.’
Robert Tonge, Wind on Green Corn, near Eastham, Wirral (c) Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, Birkenhead, Wirral Museums ServiceJohn Ingle Lee, Sweethearts and wives (c) Walker Art Gallery. National Museums LiverpoolWilliam Davis, The Rainbow (c) Walker Art Gallery. National Museums Liverpool
If you think you know the Pre-Raphaelites, this exhibition challenges you to discover and explore an art movement which extends well beyond the household names of Rossetti, Millais, Burne-Jones and Holman Hunt and a visit before Sunday 5 June is highly recommended, as is a copy of the beautiful accompanying catalogue.
Find out more and buy tickets online.
Rupert Maas was born in 1960, and educated at Sherborne School in Dorset 1973-8, and took a B.A. in Art History at Essex University 1980-3. Since 1995 he has made regular appearances on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow as a picture specialist, and served on the executive committee of The Society of London Art Dealers 1998-9. Rupert has regularly written articles for the arts press and he lectures on art.
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