As a trailer for POETRY IN BEAUTY opening at the Watts Gallery on 1 March, I have been invited to give a lecture on the programme of the Arts & Crafts Movement in Surrey, which takes place on Thursday 25 February 7.30 at the Watts Gallery.
This will be an introduction to the women artists of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, among whom Marie Spartali Stillman is perhaps the most significant. It will cover other neglected or forgotten artists, including Joanna Boyce Wells, Rosa Brett, Rebecca Solomon, Lucy Madox Brown, Evelyn de Morgan – all of whom made serious contributions to the art of their time.
They also represent a whole tranche of aspiring women whose ambitions were never fulfilled and whose names remain obscure. For contrary to popular myths of a raunchily macho movement, women were active in Pre-Raphaelitism from the beginning, as artists and craftswomen as well as models; and in general the PRBs were surprisingly welcoming, though not what we’d call egalitarian.
Strikingly, one artist who has received a good deal of attention but whose work was barely known at the time is Elizabeth Siddal, who is today more famous than all the others. Her tragic life-story adds to the fascination, of course, but equally intriguing is the as-yet uncovered tale of how she transformed herself from a dressmaker-cum-model into an artist of intense, naïve watercolours that continue to attract critical notice.
For more details of this lecture and others in the spring and summer programme contact