Poetry in Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelite Art of Marie Spartali Stillman
1 March – 5 June 2016
The first UK retrospective devoted to the beautifully poetic work of Pre-Raphaelite muse-turned-painter.
Born in London to an eminent Greek family, Marie Spartali Stillman was widely-recognised one of the great society beauties of her age. Word of her incredible looks spread quickly among the artists who frequented her father's lavish dinner parties, and she was offered work as a muse by Julia Margaret Cameron, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones.
But Spartali Stillman wasn't content as a model and she longed to become a painter in her own right. In 1865 she began formal lessons under the tutelage of Ford Maddox Brown, who trained her alongside his own children. Embracing the Pre-Raphaelite style she worked in watercolour and gouache, painting subjects from classical literature. She was particularly inspired by the poetry of Italian writers Dante and Boccaccio, as well as the work of Shakespeare.
In 1871 the newly-established artist married the American journalist William James Stillman, and began to forge important connections on the other side of the Atlantic. Her paintings were included in exhibitions in Boston, New York and Philadelphia, making Spartali Stillman the only British Pre-Raphaelite artist to show her work in the US.
In spite of her success, her contribution to 19th century art is barely recognised today. This exhibition includes examples of her landscapes, portraits and subject paintings, many of which have not been displayed since her death.
Spartali Stillman's beautifully rendered Kelmscott Manor captures a woman feeding birds in the yard of the home of William and Jane Morris.