Pre-Raphaelites at the Delaware Art Museum

MorrisBookCoverImages from the Delaware Art Museum collection.

The Pre-Raphaelite collection at the museum is the best I’ve seen outside England, and has the largest number of paintings by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, one of the founders of the movement. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, as they called themselves, flourished in the second half of England’s 19th Century into the early 20th Century, and their name comes from the idea that they wanted to look back to Medieval times for artistic inspiration, before the Renaissance artists epitomized by Raphael. They also drew inspiration from natural forms. A good example is this book cover design in pen and ink by William Morris, my favorite creator of the group. It’s the only piece they have by him, but it’s a gem because it shows Morris’s process in the notes on the right.

MorrisBookThe design was printed in gold leaf on dark green leather, though the lighting did not allow a great photo. I should point out that the design was drawn at printed size. The book is also written by Morris, a man of many talents, as were a lot of the group.


This is an ornately framed painting on the Sleeping Beauty theme by Edward Burne-Jones, who often worked with Morris, and is another favorite of mine. I’ve trimmed out the frames on most of the art I’m showing, but I had to include this one.

BurneJonesDetailHere’s a detail from that painting showing the technique which I think applies paint with a dry brush, giving the appearance of pastels rather than oils.

BurneJonesGlassBurne-Jones and Morris worked on many stained-glass windows together and separately. This is one done by for a client in the U.S. with a Viking theme, unusual for them. I happen to think Burne-Jones’ painting on glass is even better than on canvas.

BurneJonesGlassDetailsHere’s a closer look at part of it.

RosettiMaryMagdaleneThis is one the the finest paintings I’ve seen by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, of “Mary Magdalene.” The Pre-Raphaelites favored young women with red hair, full lips and large eyes like this one.

RosettiVeronicaVeroneseAnother Rosetti painting titled “Veronica Veronese.”

RosettiWaterWillowAnd a third by Rosetti titled “Water Willows.” The model is Jane Morris, William’s wife, and in the background is Kelmscott Manor, Morris’s home for many years, and a center for the group of artists. It’s open to tour occasionally,  and well worth a visit.


The special exhibit at the museum was the work of a female member of the Pre-Raphaelite group, Maria Spartali Stillman, whose work I’d never seen. Unfortunately that exhibition is now over, and it didn’t allow photos, but here’s an image from the museum’s website, one of the paintings we saw. I enjoyed seeing the work, and there was a lot of it. Maria was a close friend of Jane Morris, and there were a number of paintings from the grounds of Kelmscott Manor.

GlassSculptureThere was other interesting art to see, like these huge glass sculptures around the  entrance. We’ll have to go back some time and see the rest. I find I can only look at art for about two hours now before my eyes and my brain are full and I have to do something else!

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