Last week I drew about 20 versions after this photograph made of Jane Morris. I slightly altered the original by retouching her face and by mirroring it. I love drawing with bister ink as the hue resembles old photographs so much.
This weekend I went to the introduction course of the Writers’ Academy in Den Haag. I became very enthusiastic about their course Lifestories and Biographies. This might be just right to provide me with the tools to write an (auto)biography that has been simmering in my mind for a few years. A highly visual artists’ book inspired by Jane Morris’ lifestory as seen trough the eyes of her contemporary double.
For a few years now I have been writing down my dreams about Jane Morris and they inspired an off-the-cuff recording with composer Jolle Roelofs for my exhibition at the William Morris Gallery. In the (auto)biography these stories will be intertwined with my real travels to Jane Morris’ cultural heritage and my visual work.
Visiting Jane Morris’ former homes, musea and archives and plunging into the information on the internet I found a huge amount of information describing Jane Morris. I now created a Pinterest page as a moodboard for my (auto)biography. Feel free to connect and watch my long term project grow!
This original drawing was sold during my solo exhibition at Gallery De KunstSuper. By adding it to my online portfolio on Saatchi Art I now made it available again; as a high quality fine art Giclée print.
Have a look at my portfolio to see more drawings, paintings and photographs in close detail and in different sizes and frames. If you wish to order my work from Saatchi Art they will handle all payment and shipping so the work will safely arrive.
The concept of the current travelling exhibition (now at the William Morris Gallery until 4-1-2015) is perfectly in line with my own exhibition ‘A Memory Palace of Her Own’. Opposite to the room I occupied a few months earlier yet another room is filled with ‘images of Jane as herself’. Photographs, drawings and paintings are juxtaposed with Jane’s embroidery and handwriting. The exhibition offers insight in the relation between Jane as herself and Jane as a muse.
The exhibition illustrates that Jane Morris was multitalented, more than a pretty face. During the opening speech Jan Marsh surprised the William Morris Gallery by donating, on behalf of Frank Sharp, a book with a cover designed by Jane Morris. Photographer India-Roper Evans took photographs of the exhibition and noticed me while I was admiring the recently acquired Honeysuckle, designed by William Morris and embroideried by Jane and Jenny Morris.
After the private view of the exhibition Kirsty Walker accompanied me to visit Kelmscott Manor. They currently exhibit the Centenary Exhibition; photographs that were exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery earlier this year. At Jane Morris’ grave I have paid my homage to Jane even though she lives on in my mind… You can read Kirsty’s review of our trip here.
A few days before John Robert Parsons photographed her, Rossetti wrote in a letter to Jane Morris: ‘…The photographer is coming at eleven on Wednesday. So I’ll expect you as early as you can manage…’.
I had always assumed that the photographs had been taken in the course of a single day. However, while reading Jan Marsh’s catalogue for the exhibition ‘Rossetti’s Obsession: Images of Jane Morris’, I became intrigued by the following paragraph: ‘In autumn 1865 the Morrises moved to Queen Square, central London; earlier in the year they had spent a few days at Tudor House, where Rossetti organised a photo shoot, with Jane taking various poses to use as studies for future compositions…’
Eager to find out how to divide the series of photographs into separate shoots, I disregarded the order used in ‘Album of Portraits of Mrs. William Morris (Jane Burden) Posed by Rossetti, 1865’. Instead, I rearranged the photographs in what I myself surmise is the actual sequence in which Parsons took these photographs. I leave it to you to decide how the photographs should be distributed over the several sessions, if at all…
While opening the envelope from the Fotomuseum Den Haag in 2011, the flyer for Julian Schnabels’ exhibition ‘Polaroids’ came out. Looking at it (right) I immediately associated it with this self-portrait I took back in the nineties, studying photography.
Julian Schnabels’ son became the second person I identified myself with. To my surprise, another double crossed my path (left). I would be thrilled if anyone could provide me with details about this unidentified girl!
By subtly pervading both my art and my subconscious, Jane Morris has built herself a Memory Palace. Gradually, a very personal relationship with her developed, through a series of remarkable dreams.
A limited edition CD was made especially for the private view of my exhibition ‘A Memory Palace of Her Own’ at the William Morris Gallery in 2014. I greatly enjoyed making this off-the-cuff recording with composer Jolle Roelofs, who is also responsible for the editing of the sound fragments and the improvisations on ukulele and piano.
In this fragment I will be meeting Jane and William Morris. There are no more limited edition CD’s for sale at the William Morris Gallery. If you are interested in a copy just let me know and I can send you one.
Excerpt from an email I received from the curator of the William Morris Gallery, Carien Kremer: ‘We would like to offer you a slot in our 2014 programme, showing the photographs in the Discovery Lounge…It would be great to mark the commemorative year with a contemporary take on Jane’.
What are you proposing to display?
A series of four self-portraits. I visited several of Rossetti, Jane and William Morris’ former homes and took staged photos on location with the photographer Hein van Liempd. Referring to Jane Morris’ life story I transformed her world into my own, adopting contemporary clothing and poses.
How is your work relevant to the William Morris Gallery?
The William Morris Gallery is one of William Morris’ two former homes included in my series ‘A Memory Palace of Her Own’. The other, Red House, was designed exclusively by William Morris and Philip Webb, who collaborated in the design of the ‘Green Dining Room’ which is also shown in my series.
Are there parallels with the collection?
I took photos at Rossetti’s studio, as this is the location of the famous photo series of Jane Morris which was the incentive for my own project. In the archives of the William Morris Gallery I have studied the reproductions of this series. There, I also enjoyed the privilege of reading Jane’s letters. I have incorporated her handwriting in my photo of the Red House.
Why is it of interest to our visitors?
In the course of my trips to London and Oxford I have seen many inspiring works of art and artefacts from various museums, archives and from one depot. In my work, I often refer to these objects or quote from the many works on the Pre-Raphaelites. As an artist, it is my hope that my personal viewpoint will supplement the existing works of art and artefacts in the William Morris Gallery to contribute to Jane and William Morris and Rossetti’s cultural heritage.
Grote Haagse Kunstkalender 2013
My work is printed on 23 March 2013
ISBN 978 94 90608 44 6
370 pages (weight 3 kilos, size 29,7 x 34 cm. )
February 4th, 2012, I attended the symposium ‘Treasures of the Collection in Context: The Pre-Raphaelites in the Museo de Arte de Ponce Collection’. Distinguished researchers in the Victorian culture presented papers. Alison Smith, Tim Barringer and Jason Rosenfeld being the curators of the upcoming exhibition ‘Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde’ in the Tate Britain, London. Franny Moyle, BBC producer and author of ‘Desperate Romantics, the private lives of the Pre-Raphaelites’. Together with the speeches of Sally-Anne Huxtable, Madeleine Vala and Cheryl Hartup, the symposium provided interesting strings of thoughts on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. They are posing in front of ‘Flaming June’ by lord Leighton; my favourite of the ‘Treasures of the Collection in Context’. My other favourite is ‘Roman Widow’ by D.G. Rossetti. These two paintings had been traveling as part of the exhibition ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and were exhibited in the Gemeentemuseum of the Hague in the Netherlands. It was the first time I saw a painting by D.G. Rossetti since I was given a photograph of his muse Jane Morris. Spellbound I caught the attention of an artist. My identification with her is a metaphor for how I see the image of women in modern media. As a contemporary female artist, my struggles with the beauty myth occupied my mind until I visited the symposium and learned about the female issues in Victorian age. Attending the symposium made me understand that the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood did not merely represent their female models as objects for male desire. Their art showed social solidarity with the working classes, with democracy and women rights becoming in debate.
Due to the industrialization, many women left the countryside for the city but could not find a decent job there and sadly became prostitutes or even suicidal. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood wanted to rescue these girls of their poor destiny. With their arms tightly locked in each other they roamed the streets hoping to catch new stunners who would model for them. They painted them as to represent injustice for all women in Victorian time. While members of the royal family were painted as if they came straight out the pub, the working class was modeled after Greek beauty ideal.
Jane Morris, the daughter of a stableman, was one of them. She modeled for D.G. Rossetti’s painting ‘Proserpine’. In Greek and Roman mythology, Proserpine was kidnapped to become the wife of Pluto, God of the underworld. She was destined to stay in the underworld half of the year, because she ate a few seeds of a pomegranate. The myth resembles the story of Adam and Eve after the forbidden bite of the apple but also has an autobiographical touch to it. The painting relates to the unhappy marriage of Jane and William Morris and the extramarital affair between Jane Morris and D.G. Rossetti. They were attracted to each other from the start but D.G. Rossetti was already engaged. So, Jane Morris accepted the marriage proposal of William Morris instead and used her intelligence and creativity in climbing the social ladder.
D.G. Rossetti’s fiancée was another ‘rescued’ working class girl: Lizzie Siddal. She was earning a decent income in a hat shop until she was discovered and became the first Pre-Raphaelite supermodel and an artist herself. But her romance with Rossetti damaged her reputation. Men and women were valued differently concerning sex before marriage and adultery. Even modeling for the Pre-Raphaelite painters was considered as the equivalent of being a prostitute. Out of convenience D.G. Rossetti tried to save her reputation by marrying her. However, after Lizzie Siddal bore his stillborn child, she committed suicide. Years earlier, Lizzie Siddal had modeled for Millais’ painting ‘Ophelia’. It represents a transition into the next world as a sensual experience, an orgasm. It depicts female desire. Together with her self portrait, ‘Ophelia’ will be one of the highlights of the upcoming exhibition ‘Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde’ in the Tate Britain, London. I am also looking forward to see the embroideries Jane Morris made for William Morris’ bed, designed by their daughter May.
After the symposium, the cocktail party at the roof of the Museo de Arte de Ponce was a nice chance to meet the speekers. Days later, a song by the Rolling Stones kept popping up in my mind…You’re just a poor girl in a rich man’s house…I’ll be your knight in shining armour, coming to your emotional rescue…