Release Date: January 17, 2013
Pre-Raphaelite Books and Illustrations in Library Exhibition at National Gallery of Art, Washington
February 17–August 4, 2013
William Morris, 1834-1896, The Well at the World's End, Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1896, Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, on loan to the University of Delaware Library
Washington, DC—Artists of the Pre-Raphaelite circle were deeply engaged with integrating word and image throughout their careers. Pre-Raphaelites and the Book showcases 35 volumes and illustrations from the Gallery's Library and the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, on loan to the University of Delaware, from poetry by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Morris to wood engravings and material related to the Kelmscott Press. On view from February 17 through August 4 in Gallery G-21 on the Ground Floor of the West Building, the installation has been organized to complement Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848–1900.
The Pre-Raphaelites involved themselves not only in book design and illustration, but were also highly regarded poets in their own right. John Everett Millais and Edward Burne-Jones were sought-after magazine and book illustrators, while Rossetti devoted himself equally to poetry and the visual arts.
In 1891, after years of publishing his works elsewhere, Morris founded the Kelmscott Press to print books "with the hope of producing some which would have a definite claim to beauty." He designed all aspects of the books—from typefaces and ornamental elements to layouts, where he incorporated wood-engraved illustrations contributed by Burne-Jones. Beautifully illustrated books from this press are displayed alongside Morris' elaborate ornament designs and his own manuscript illumination inspired by medieval volumes.
The installation also includes rare copies of The Germ and The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine—short-lived periodicals with poetry, illustrations, essays, and short stories created to promote the ideas of the Pre-Raphaelites—as well as the Moxon Tennyson, an illustrated edition of Alfred Tennyson's poetry that was among the first commissions of the Pre-Raphaelite artists. A selection of pencil and ink caricatures by Burne‑Jones depicting his family life and other members of the circle is also on view.
In addition to works by the Pre-Raphaelites, influential volumes by critic and later Pre-Raphaelite advocate John Ruskin are included, such as Modern Painters and The Stones of Venice.
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