Brotherhood of the Pre-Raphaelites (part 5)
Lizzy Siddal was a saleswoman of some fashionista when the artist Deverell saw her and admired the unusual, sophisticated beauty of a girl with copper-gold hair. She served as a model for Milles and other Pre-Raphaelites. But the jealous Rossetti wanted Lizzy to pose only to him. He drew it endlessly – sitting, standing, one head, often reproduced the appearance of a girl in small watercolors on the themes of Dante and Beatrice. She herself began to draw and write poetry.
Their marriage was delayed for a long time because of complete lack of money, and when it was concluded, the unsuccessful birth worsened Lizzy’s condition so much that she was prescribed drugs. On February 10, 1862, Rossetti, who was late to return home, found her dying from a dose that was accidentally or deliberately taken. In a fit of despair, accusing himself of negligence, Rossetti laid in the coffin of his wife a manuscript of a collection of poems that he had prepared, devoted mostly to her. Seven years later, at the insistence of friends, he allowed to get the manuscript from the tomb. Poems from afar. It was the “House of Life”, which made the artist a famous English poet. But the glory was no longer pleasing – it seemed to him that he had admitted sacrilege, violating the peace of his wife’s grave. This led Rossetti to a suicide attempt.
In the last portrait of Lizzy, the artist depicted her in the form of Dante’s Beatrice, who was in a trance at the time of death.
The painting, called “Beata Beatrix”, was the first in a series of female images of Rossetti’s later canvases. They were written from different models, but they have some similarities: each has a long neck, bending under the weight of the hair, a pale face with a painfully languid look. In Rossetti’s epigones, the cult of fragile female beauty degenerated into pure aesthetics and a decorative pattern.
In the 1850s, Rossetti was still full of ideas, first of all he wanted to fresco the conference hall of the Union Society that had just been built in Oxford by his friend, architect Woodward. Rossetti’s passion was transmitted to several young people. In the summer of 1857, they began to paint the walls of the hall with watercolor brushes right on the wet plaster. While the paints were fresh, the frescoes looked beautiful, but, unfortunately, a year later they began to crumble and fade. Attempts to restore the mural did not yield results, but the common work of the Pre-Raphaelites of the “second call” rallied these young people. By the way, there were seven of them too. The greatest recognition was received by two – William Morris and Edward Burn-Jones, who became friends for life. As far as Bern-Jones was limp, dreamy and gentle, Morris was energetic, quick-tempered and practical.
Morris is a large and diverse phenomenon in the culture of England and all of Europe in the second half of the 19th century. We will only briefly list the types of activities where he left a noticeable mark: the original poet, writer and publicist, artist and decorator, master-innovator of applied art. He was also a scientist – a connoisseur of ancient medieval literature and art, in addition, published and designed books, revived the very concept of “art of a book”, founded the society for the protection of monuments of nature and art, a tireless propagandist of the ideas of socialism and an active participant in the labor movement. In 1861, he created collective workshops that produced furniture, wallpapers, stained-glass windows, tiles, heels, curtains and decorative fabrics. All his Pre-Raphaelite friends worked in the workshops: Rossetti, Burn-Jones, Hunt, Brown. Although the latter did not officially become a member of the Pre-Raphaelite fraternity, but of his convictions, of course, he should be reckoned with them.