Rossetti's Obsession: Images of Jane Morris
4 Oct 2014 – 4 Jan 2015
Free to all
Marking the centenary year of Jane Morris's death, this exhibition of painting, drawing and photography explores her role as Dante Gabriel Rossetti's chief muse.
Morris is seen as the very embodiment of Pre-Raphaelite beauty, thanks in large part to Rossetti who painted her with obsessional intensity during the height of his career. In fact, it was he who first spotted Jane at Drury Lane Theatre in 1857 and asked if she would model for his and his friends' paintings. Although she agreed to marry designer and poet William Morris, Jane had a deep emotional attachment to Rossetti and they began a long affair just after her wedding.
Key pieces of Pre-Raphaelite work reveal Rossetti's fixation with Jane; their relationship evidently serving as the inspiration for some of his most renowned paintings. He would often cast her in mythological roles, such as Ancient Greek goddess Astarte who he saw to be the ultimate symbol of feminine power.
The exhibition also considers Jane's role as an artist in her own right. A tapestry she produced alongside daughter Jenny is featured in the display, revealing Jane as a skilled embroiderer and important member of the Arts and Crafts Movement.
On display are the studies for one of Rossetti's most famous pieces Proserpine, in which Jane models as the mythological beauty (also known as Persephone) who was condemned to spend six months of the year in the underworld. During her banishment the land turned cold and dark and would only become beautiful again when she returned. This tale was a painful parallel for Rossetti who had just spent an idyllic summer with Morris but was about to be parted from her for the winter.