Posted by: Natalie | June 23, 2010

Pre-Raphaelite Beauty

Along with my favourite tragic love stories, I am also a fan of the forlorn and lost. I will always be  moved most by an air of unfixable sadness and heartbreak. I don’t know why – maybe its the teenage puppy dog still inside me that aches along in empathy with the sorrowful figures depicted in books, paintings and pictures. Or maybe because these are feelings that conjure up the strongest images to describe and therefore the most powerful, yet tricky, to detail.

'The Lady of Shalott' by John William Waterhouse

Whenever I think of trying to write these colours of emotions, I often think to the Pre-Raphaelites (and those who followed the style) and their magical portraits of some of the most beautiful yet broken women; The Lady of Shalott and Boreas, both by John William Waterhouse, Flaming June by Frederick Leighton, Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais, just to name a few.

These paintings show true beauty, not only in the women they depict but in the costume they wear and the surroundings they find themselves in. Their detail is so rich and layered that to even attempt to put the scene and its emotions into words, is mind blowing. On looking, I find words not enough to paint what I am seeing – I don’t even know where to begin. All I know is that these pictures are so beautiful they make me slightly breathless.

'Boreas' by John William Waterhouse

'Ophelia' by Sir John Everett Millias

'Flaming June' by Frederick Leighton

With Flaming June in particular, along with many of the Guinevere/Lancelot depictions, it seems to be the fabric that causes me to want to describe! Even though I am dumbfounded by their beauty, there is an itching and a pulsing inside me that desperately wants to write about it, to describe the folds and curves and curls of the material. I am desperate to give written justice to the delicate shape of the female form barely hidden beneath the sheer fabric. The smooth porcelain skin against the strong vibrant colours of cloth that either flutter dramatically or hang gracefully, give me goosebumps and no words I could possibly string together could create the same sensation.
These paintings are something of a violent hotch-potch of emotions for me; pushed almost to tears by their beauty, frustrated that I can never create either in drawing or writing anything quite so elegant and tragic, broken by the heartache these women portray, and envious – deeply. I have never had the pleasure of looking on the originals of these masterpieces, but I know if I ever do, I would be floored by their brilliance.
But, these similar thoughts and reactions swam into being while I was watching TV last night, bizarre I know. Every now and again there is an advert that makes me sit up and pay attention, and this one in particular brought all these ramblings together and reminded me of my Pre-Raphaelite love (courtesy of PercyGeen17 at YouTube)
Pre-Raphaelite beauty at it’s finest! Truly mesmerising, and inspiring. It’s the Lady of Shalott as she floats down the river, struck down by the evil curse. It is Ophelia as she also slips into her watery grave and submerges her beauty from the world. It is Flaming June as she wanders in golden sunshine before setting down for her warming slumber. It is a brilliant Flake advert (click to win free ‘Benefit’ lipstick!). It embodies everything beautiful, sad and lonely that I adore in the above paintings. It is tragic glamour at its finest and I only wish I had the talent to put it’s finer detail into words.
But during my own forlorn heroine wanderings (ok, they were not through a poppy field or by a river or with a knight in shining armour, they were only through YouTube!) I discovered that the above advert is not the first incarnation of this idea. The style and atmosphere created by Cadbury had been achieved some years before by the late, great Alexander McQueen. He projected the following video as a hologram at a fashion show, I believe, in 2006. Courtesy of pwambolt at YouTube.
This all makes for a happy Nat today, for two reasons. Firstly that the Pre-Raphaelite’s and their creations are still having an impact on style and design, even today – see, the Victorians were not the only ones obsessed with these romantic ladies! And secondly, it has given me something new to ponder – just how the hell do I find those words that still fail to come to explain to you clearly what I mean, to describe perfectly the sad serenity? I’m not sure yet, but I always like a challenge and I will have fun trying! I will find this essence, I will. And once discovered, you try and stop me using it in my work! That, will make for another happy day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: