Thursday, May 1, 2014

"This" Summer

As most of you know by now I have a deep abiding love for Lauren Willig's writing. For a fan this is an exciting time in her writing career. With last year's The Ashford Affair she officially branched out from her Pink Carnation series, which is sadly winding down, and has started to write stand-alones. That Summer is her new stand-alone which is coming out this summer (get the theme month title eh?) I have to say, if she wanted to hook me more then Kenya, choosing the Pre-Raphaelites was a sure way to do it. Everyone knows who the Pre-Raphaelites are even if they aren't aware of it. I remember back in high school my English classroom had the ubiquitous Pre-Raphaelite posters on the back bulletin board. There was Sir Francis Bernard Dicksee's La Belle Dame Sans Merci and John William Waterhouse's The Lady of Shalott. They never removed these posters in the four years I had classes in that room on and off. There's just something so magical about these paintings, the way they convey such detail and meaning to the written word that it captures the cross pollination of artistic mediums that the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood embraced and made me want to learn more versus those people who just slap the posters up on their walls. 

When I was in undergrad getting a BS in Art there was a plethora of Art History courses that were required which I took to with great zeal, even adding in such classes as German Architecture: The Modern Movements, which oddly ties into the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Because the classes covered such a wide range of time, literally from Ancient Egypt to Picasso, there wasn't as much time to dwell on each subject as I would have liked. What was interesting though is that later when I took my German Architecture Class so many of the ideologies of these German artists harked back to the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood believe in craftsmanship, romanticism, spiritualism, nature, ideas, and never forget that signature jawline. They believed in elevating art for the people while there was always the irony that they spent so much time and effort on their art that it wasn't the common man but the wealthy who could afford their work, much like the Arts and Crafts movement, but more on that later. The German's believed in this craftsmanship and this love that was put into every aspect of the work with amazing attention to detail, which Frank Lloyd Wright would later use, going so far as to design the clothes that the inhabitants of his houses wore. If you have ever had the honor to see some of the Brotherhood's work, they made the frames that houses the paintings because it was the only way to truly view the art. They were Victorian Renaissance men that were both craftsmen and artists.

A few years back the Pre-Raphaelites got a little buzz again off the BBC Miniseries, Desperate Romantics, which I hope Lauren has finally watched after much urging on my part. While the series plays fast and loose with facts, making it in essence "Victorian Entourage," it once again ignited my interest in these artists. It didn't hurt having Aidan Turner playing Dante Gabriel Rossetti is all I'll say on that. At the same time the Art Institute of Chicago did a fascinating exhibition called Apostles of Beauty: Arts and Crafts from Britain to Chicago. The synchronicity of the exhibition's timing was eerily awesome for me. Because any way you look at it the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and Arts and Crafts are connected movements with John Ruskin and Williams Morris being figureheads in both. The centerpiece of the exhibit was Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Beata Beatrix. But the exhibit had innumerable sketches and paintings and even house plans that gave such insight into the movements that I just wanted to learn more. Therefore this month is all about learning more. To delve into Lauren's research material, to read what inspired her, to find out the origins of That Summer and get special insights into why this world called out to her and me. And in another wonderful twist of fate, the MET is having a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition opening this month and thankfully lasting until I go to New York in August called The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy: British Art and Design. I'm positive they did this just to coincide with That Summer.


Oh my goodness, the Met is having a Preraph exhibition? How did I miss this?? One of the big inspirations for THAT SUMMER was an exhibit the Met put on when I was in either Upper School or college (time blurs) of the works of Burne-Jones. My two best friends and I haunted that exhibit. Ironically, Burne-Jones doesn't appear in the book (he's a little too late), but it was part of what got me hooked on the Preraphs....

I only found out about it while looking at all the museums to see what I could see this summer (so excited for this). I figured having an entire trip based on seeing Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig was wasting all New York had to offer ;)

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