A Pre-Raphaelite Journey: Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale
5 February - 9 June 2013
A Pre-Raphaelite Journey: Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale is the first major exhibition in more than 40 years to explore the extraordinary output of the Pre-Raphaelite artist, Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale. The exhibition brings together drawings, paintings, books and design created by the artist between 1898 and 1934 to consider how Eleanor’s work told stories, drew morals and celebrated the beauty of nature.
The exhibition is guest curated by Pamela Gerrish Nunn, the leading scholar of Victorian women artists, and tours from the Lady Lever Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool.
Although Fortescue-Brickdale was born half a century after the main protagonists of the original Pre-Raphaelite movement, the artist was strongly allied to its aesthetic and according to a commentator in 1910 ‘should do much in the future to exemplify the still living force of Pre-Raphaelitism as a school’. The artist’s practice evolved from the Victorian art tradition, eschewing the modernism of Bloomsbury and instead looking to a Ruskinian depiction of nature allied with strong symbolic and allegorical themes.
In the latter, Fortescue-Brickdale owed a debt to George Frederic Watts, who admired the artist’s paintings and wrote appreciative remarks in the catalogue for an exhibition of her work at Leighton House.
Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale was born on 25 January 1872 in Upper Norwood, Surrey. At the age of seventeen she joined the Crystal Palace School of Art, but like all art students at that time she aspired to enter the Royal Academy. She succeeded in doing this on the third attempt and whilst there won a prize for mural decoration. She saw early success as a painter and book illustrator and was associated with her friend and ‘Neo Pre-Raphaelite’ John Byam Shaw (1872-1919), one of the leading figures of this later movement. She also taught at the art school in Kensington that he set up and which bears his name.
This exhibition brings together Fortescue-Brickdale’s jewel-like paintings, with examples of watercolours for her greatest illustrated books, including her celebrated illustrations for Tennyson’s Idylls of the King exhibited at London’s Leicester Galleries.