Made By Mrs M

The Pre-Raphelites & How I'll never be good at painting...

Art, Exhibition, London, PaintingKate Marsden

Every time I visit any exhibition which includes works by the most prominent pre-raphelite painters I'm transported back to my teens. I can't remember where I first came across Dante Gabriel Rossetti but I was probably about 12, and around about that time I acquired a copy of the catalogue for a pre-raphelites exhibition which had been held at Tate in 1984. I spent hours and hours looking over this book and fell completely in love with the images it contained - the things that struck me most were the light and colour.

Beata Beatrix c. 1864-70, Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828 - 1882, Oil paint on canvas, 864 x 660 mm, Tate. Presented by Georgiana Baroness Mount-Temple in memory of her husband, Francis, Baron Mount-Temple 1889

Beata Beatrix c. 1864-70, Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828 - 1882, Oil paint on canvas, 864 x 660 mm, Tate. Presented by Georgiana Baroness Mount-Temple in memory of her husband, Francis, Baron Mount-Temple 1889

Fast forward to this summer and Tate Britain have an exhibition all about that - Painting With Light looks at the relationship between art and photography from the time of the pre-raphelites onwards.

It's a rather wonderful exhibition, where I spent quite some time, however I finally had my light bulb moment - I've realised why I'm so rubbish at painting - it's all Rossetti's fault (or mostly his anyway...).

The Japanese Parasol c.1906, John Cimon Warburg 1867-1931, Facsimile, 711 x 559 mm, © Royal Photographic Society / National Media Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library

The Japanese Parasol c.1906, John Cimon Warburg 1867-1931, Facsimile, 711 x 559 mm, © Royal Photographic Society / National Media Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library

Unless you're capable of photo realism (and, I suppose you could argue that anyone is with the right training and practice, but I beg to differ), if your first real artistic love affair was with the pre-raphelites, you're doomed to failure. Forever inspired by, but totally incapable of anything close, I stood in front of John Singer Sargent's painting, Lily, Lily, Lily Rose (1885-6) (look it up the light really is amazing in this one) and realised that I either need to give up completely or try and walk away, appreciating that while I like to look at these paintings, they're not me and not something I should be aspiring to.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Proserpine 1874, Oil paint on canvas 1251 x 610 mm Tate. Presented by W. Graham Robertson 1940

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Proserpine 1874, Oil paint on canvas 1251 x 610 mm Tate. Presented by W. Graham Robertson 1940

Having said that, I'm always transported back to the early 1990s when I see these paintings, and in a good way - I think I fancied myself as somewhat pre-raphelite-esque with my long wavy hair and loose clothes, and like it or not this fascination probably did lead to my application to art college and what I do now.

So, no more looking to them for inspiration (other than the colours perhaps), just for something pleasing to the eye...

Painting With Light: Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphelites to the Modern Age is on at Tate Britain until 25 September 2016.