Christina Rossetti and Family

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Posted 20th November 2018

Christina Rossetti and Family

Dr Susan Owens

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) is among the greatest of Victorian poets. Her lucid yet enigmatic verse speaks powerfully to us today, while her striking imagery has always captured artists' imaginations.

Visual art was a vital part of Rossetti's creative life. As a young woman she was involved with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a radical art movement founded in 1848. When her poems first began to be published they were illustrated by members of the group, and its central figure, her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti, designed her most important books. Later on, artists including Arthur Hughes and Julia Margaret Cameron found inspiration in her verse. This exhibition brings together portraits and studies, illustrations to her poetry and pictures suggested by her words, along with examples of her own intriguing drawings.

Born on 5 December 1830, Christina Georgina Rossetti grew up in a lively and intellectual Anglo-Italian household. As children she and her older siblings – Maria Francesca, Gabriel Charles Dante (he changed his name to Dante Gabriel in 1849) and William Michael – were encouraged to write and draw. Christina composed her first poem when she was 11, and a book of her verses was privately printed by her grandfather when she was 16.

As a young woman she was the subject of portraits by her elder brother Gabriel (as he was known), who was to become one of the most influential artists of the Victorian era. This was the beginning of a close and lasting creative relationship; Rossetti later described him as her 'acute and most helpful critic'.

When she was 20 Rossetti enrolled at the North London School of Drawing. Although her formal training was short-lived, she continued to draw throughout her life.