Opening of ROSSETTI’S OBSESSION at the William Morris Gallery on 3 October: its third incarnation this year, centenary of Janey Morris’s death, and an exhibition which has evolved over the year so that each venue has seen a subtly different show, with absences and additions.
First thanks to Jill Iredale of Bradford Museums [above] who proposed and curated and came up with the title.
Constant elements throughout include the great pastel drawings from Bradford and the great Honeysuckle embroidery stitched by Jane and Jenny. These two elements represent aspects of Janey Morris, showcased in exhibition: the ‘real’ Jane – seen in photographs and sketches, letters and embroideries – and what can be called the ‘mythical’ Jane, in the roles of Pandora, Persephone, Astarte, Beatrice, seen in Rossetti’s drawings. We don’t confuse an actress with the parts she plays but still we interpret Jane through his obsessional representations of an alluring but moody femme fatale.
Thanks also to Rupert Maas who offered to the WMG the fine red chalk vision of Jane both as herself and as Tennyson’s Mariana, which makes a great addition to the show.
Jane remarkably transformed herself from a poverty-stricken childhood into a woman of culture and creativity, an active member of the William Morris family firm. It also says something for the unavailability of divorce in the Victorian age that the Morris marriage survived the troubles she caused it, becoming a loving and mutually supportive partnership. Jane devoted her widowhood to preserving and promoting Morris’s legacy, so we should thank her too.
Rossetti’s Obsession is not a blockbuster but a jewel of an exhibition. Thanks and congratulations to all involved.
A prompt and appreciative review in Apollo