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Events

The Society organises a varied programme of lectures and visits to exhibitions and places of interest each year. Our schedule for 2017 comprises (further events to be added):

21 January 2017

Lecture by Helen Bratt Wyton – “Hidden Wightwick and the Acquisition of its Collection”.

Venue: Birmingham & Midland Institute, 9 Margaret Street, Birmingham – Lecture starts at 11.00 a.m.

Wightwick Manor, home of the Mander family, was designed by Edward Ould in the Old English Style. Now in the care of the National Trust, it is a treasure trove of the Arts and Crafts Movement with Kempe glass, Morris fabrics and wallpaper and a wonderful selection of Pre‑Raphaelite art. This illustrated lecture will explore Wightwick Manor’s reserve collection and how its stunning art collection came to Wolverhampton.

Helen Bratt-Wyton has been Head Steward at Wightwick Manor for 15 years. Her varied role involves looking after Wightwick Manor’s stunning collections and interpreting these to the public. She also delivers a yearly talk programme on site and to groups and Societies around the region on Morris, the Pre-Raphaelites and Wightwick Manor’s collections. Helen is one of the founder members of the William Morris Network, a group of organisations and Societies involved with the life and work of Morris and his circle.

25 February 2017

Lecture by Dr. Lucy Ella Rose – “Evelyn De Morgan: The Metamorphic Mermaid”.

Venue: Birmingham & Midland Institute, 9 Margaret Street, Birmingham – Lecture starts at 11.00 a.m.

“Second generation” Pre-Raphaelite Evelyn De Morgan (1855-1919) actively supported female emancipation in petition and paint. This paper investigates how she employed the metamorphic mermaid as a model for socio-political transformation from captivity to liberty. Her series of mermaid paintings The Little Sea Maid (1880-88), The Sea Maidens (1885-86) and Daughters of the Mist (1900-09) was inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s popular tale The Little Mermaid (first translated into English in 1872), and she seizes the narrative as a suffragist. Focusing on their series, this paper explores the representation of the female nude; the feminist significance of the sea; the dynamics of the gaze; the subversive symbolism of the mermaid; and the significance of the dawn in early feminist iconography. It shows how Evelyn re-appropriated masculine symbols and classical myths and represented the female body in her art in order to engage with contemporary gender debates and early feminist issues.

Lucy Ella Rose is Teaching Fellow in English at the University is Surrey, where she completed her PhD awarded by the University and Watts Gallery, Surrey in 2015. Her specialist area is women in the nineteenth-century creative partnerships, and she is currently writing her first book: Suffragist Artists in Partnership: Gender, Word and Image. For publication by Edinburgh University Press in 2017.

18 March 2017

Lecture by Wendy Holborow – “Work: Forward Motion”.

Venue: Birmingham & Midland Institute, 9 Margaret Street, Birmingham – Lecture starts at 11.00 a.m.

In 1864, Ford Madox Brown declared that “the finished canvas embodies no less than the work of my life.” He was referring to his painting Work which took more than eleven years to complete, eventually aided by regular instalments of money from his patron Thomas Plint. This lecture will look at Ford Madox Brown’s painting Work through a collection of poems and a short play. The corona of sonnets in the series won first place in this Society’s 2016 competition. The poems take many poetic forms such as the sonnets, but also a Mesostic and several open field poems. Much of the narrative is a figment of Wendy’s imagination, backed up with research on the painting and the social commentary of Victorian England. It has been said that the painting had radical implications by placing the working man at the top, rather than at the bottom of society’s hierarchy of value.

Wendy Holborow, winner of The Pre-Raphaelite Society 2016 poetry prize, poet, playwright and story writer. She was born in South Wales, UK, but lived in Greece for fourteen years where she founded and co-edited Poetry Greece. She has won prizes for poetry some of which have appeared in Agenda, Envoi, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, and many others internationally. She was awarded a poetry Mentorship with Literature Wales in 2012 and has just completed a Masters in Creative Writing at Swansea University (with distinction). She was selected as an International Merit Award winner by the Atlanta Review in 2015 and 2016. Poetry Salzburg published her collection After the Silent Phone Call (2015) and An Italian Afternoon from Indigo Dreams is forthcoming this year. The book Work’s Forward Motion, (2017) will be available after the lecture.

22 April 2017

Visit to Biddulph Old Hall, Stoke-on-Trent with tour by owner Nigel Daly.

Biddulph Old Hall is the historic home of the Biddulph family from which the town gets its name. The inhabited house was originally a small single cell hunting lodge which was developed into the family’s principal residence, part-stone, part-timber framed. Around 1530, a new mansion was commenced alongside the existing manor, and this was described as “Mr Biddulph’s Fair New House of Stone” in contemporary accounts. The house had the involvement or influence of Robert Smythson in its architecture. The Biddulphs were Recusant Catholics and so by about 1580 were being fined heavily so work stopped. No further development was achieved before the house was caught up in a siege during the English Civil War in February 1644, after which it was brought to ruin. The family never rebuilt the new mansion, instead restoring the earlier house which still survives today.

The house was sold out of the family for the first time in 1861, when it was bought by James Bateman, the creator of the famous gardens at Biddulph Grange, now in the care of the National Trust. His youngest son Robert created a studio there, and from 1871 had a lifetime tenancy on the house, painting many of his best known works in the house. Many of his artistic circle visited. During the 20th century the house slowly slipped into disrepair but has been restored by Nigel Daly and Brian Vowles, who have also created a Briar Rose garden within the remaining upstanding ruins. Currently three of Robert Bateman’s original works are on show in the house.

We will be treated to a tour of the house by the owner Nigel Daly with tea and cakes after the tour and free time to explore.

13 May 2017

Lecture by Patrick Baty – “The Artists of the Artists Rifles”.

Venue: Birmingham & Midland Institute, 9 Margaret Street, Birmingham – Lecture starts at 11.00 a.m.

The Artists Rifles was one of the more curious regiments of the British Army. It was formed in 1860 by a group of painters, architects, poets, sculptors, musicians and actors who were concerned about a possible invasion by the French. Early members included most of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, William Morris, Frederic, Lord Leighton and even the poet and novelist Algernon Swinburne. Admittedly, some were more effective as soldiers than others – Morris seemed to have trouble with drill; Rossetti questioned every order and Ford Madox Brown managed to shoot his own dog when first on the rifle range. However, Millais was a capable soldier and was elected one of the original officers. Leighton was also a natural leader and commanded the regiment for many years, Whistler describing him as “Colonel of the Royal Academy and the President of the Artists Rifles – aye, and he paints a little!” The regiment was the natural choice for young men of an artistic persuasion in 1914 and well-known artists like John and Paul Nash, the poets Edward Thomas and Wilfred Owen and the playwright Noel Coward wore the uniform of the Artists Rifles. In view of the calibre of men serving in its ranks it became an officer-producing unit and turned out over 10,000 officers for service in other regiments during WWI. Members of the regiment won more gallantry awards than any other.

Patrick Baty is a specialist on the architectural use of colour in historic buildings. His work covers research, paint analysis, colour & technical advice and colour surveys. Projects have ranged from King Henry VIII’s heraldic Beasts; Baroque churches; country houses; wartime RAF stations and London social housing estates to structures such as Tower Bridge and Holborn Viaduct. He also works in the USA. Patrick’s first book The Anatomy of Colour is published by Thames & Hudson in May 2017. He served in the regiment for ten years.

24 June 2017

Lecture by Colin Cruise – “The Cloister and the Laboratory: Rossetti between the Past and the Present”.

Venue: Birmingham & Midland Institute, 9 Margaret Street, Birmingham – Lecture starts at 2.00 p.m.

In two early watercolours, The Laboratory (1849, BMAG) and Fra Pace (1856, private collection), Rossetti depicted scenes from distinct historical periods, the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. In doing so he contrasted not only their visual style but also the different values and morals of the cultures they represented to him. These works have only rarely considered in their own right and have never before been compared and contrasted. Colin will do so in this talk in order to open up discussions about the artist’s wider aesthetic programme. The dates of these works are crucial – the first being at the start of Rossetti’s involvement with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the second at a point when the Brotherhood began to dissolve. Yet there is a dialogue between the two works that will be uncovered and explored here. In their different ways these watercolours look forward to themes worked out by Rossetti in more familiar paintings, a discussion of which forms the second half of this paper.

Colin Cruise is Professor of Art History at the School of Art, Aberystwyth University. He has written widely on nineteenth-century art and the Pre-Raphaelites. In recent years he was guest curator for two exhibitions for BMAG, Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites and The Poetry of Drawing. His current research project is a study of the drawings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

29 July 2017

Lecture by Dr Ayla Lepine – “Pre-Raphaelite Religon and Religious Pre-Raphaelites”.

Venue: Birmingham & Midland Institute, 9 Margaret Street, Birmingham – Lecture starts at 11.00 a.m

From the outset, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and their close associates sought to create new ways of interpreting Christianity through their radical work. This lecture draws upon a cluster of well-known and lesser-known artworks by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Edward Burne-Jones, exploring contrasting paths that each artist took towards uncovering innovative approaches to religious subjects in their work. Two figures – a mother and son – will form a framework for considering these fresh perspectives on religious imagery in the midst of a profound set of shifting factors in the art world, theology, and British society that made the Pre-Raphaelite renewal of a religious vision particularly revolutionary. By studying how these artists depicted Christ and the Virgin Mary, new understandings of the Incarnation and the Mother of God emerge in order to demonstrate that these four artists, in their own bespoke way, did nothing less than counter-culturally preach with paint.

Dr Ayla Lepine is a Visiting Fellow in the Art History Department at the University of Essex. Following her PhD on the Gothic Revival at the Courtauld Institute of Art, Ayla held fellowships at the Courtauld and Yale, and has taught, lectured, and published widely. She focuses on Victorian sacred art and architecture in Britain and is completing a book on medieval impacts upon modern cities.

For further details relating to any of the events mentioned above please email info@Pre‑Raphaelitesociety.org.

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