Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pre-Raphaelites and the Book

On my way home from PBI, I found myself delayed in Washington, DC with enough time to visit the National Gallery of Art. I was excited to find that they were currently exhibiting a small special collection of items concerning a few key artists from the Victorian era, who were particularly interested in combining words and images in the book form. The exhibit included work by William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, John Ruskin, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and a few others. This little exhibit seem to fall right into my lap, pulling together my long-time appreciation for Victorian literature and my study of the book, and type, and even page design.

I've been fascinated with William Morris for a long time. He was involved in every aspect of the book. He wrote poetry and prose, he created type faces and illustrations and fabric designs, did experiments in bookbinding and printing, and eventually founded Kelmscott Press. This first image shows Morris' novel The Roots of the Mountains, and he was involved with all the page design and printing and it is bound in fabric that he designed.

Morris designed all the ornamentation for Kelmscott Press and this little exhibit included an example of some of his decorative uppercase letters.

Here's another example of Morris' work inside a book: an elaborate border design, ornamented text and illustrations, etc.

Puling myself away from William Morris, I found also this title page by Edward Burne-Jones, apparently his very first commissioned work.

In addition to the more elaborate paintings and engravings, Edward Burne-Jones also made a lot of quick sketches and caricatures of his surroundings. There were a few of these sketches on display, including this one of his wife studying at the table, surrounded by books and observed by a cat.

Another item that caught my attention was this edition of Christina Rossetti's poems, which was illustrated by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Dante Gabriel also designed the elegant binding for this book, as he often did for his own books.

Such was the highlight of my 30-hour delay. It was a small exhibit in a small room, and according to the pamphlet, there were only 34 items on display. I did, however, spend more time in this little room than I did in any of the other exhibits at the gallery. This exhibit was scheduled to close on May 19th even though I was there on May 24th, so maybe if you hurry, perhaps they haven't removed it yet!

2 comments:

Bonnie Faulkner said...

Thank you for sharing! I love following your blog and seeing what you do in your studio.

Please check out mine...I have a glass book on there and am hoping to make another this summer.

http://bonniefaulkner.blogspot.com/

Rhonda Miller said...

Thanks for visiting, Bonnie. I was just looking at your blog, those glass books look great!