Monday, September 13, 2010

Radical Pre-Raphaelites Invade Delaware

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)
Lady Lilith, 1866-68 (altered 1872-73)
Oil on canvas. Delaware Art Museum,
Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935.
Lilith, the subject of this painting, is described in Judaic literature as the first wife of Adam.
She is associated with the seduction of men and the murder of children.
Note opium poppy in lower right corner.

(All Images Courtesy Of The University of Delaware.)

Before you hear about it on Fox News, we're breaking this story on Booktryst: The University of Delaware is holding a major conference about a bunch of free thinking, free loving, socialist-feminist radicals who wanted to end capitalism, imperialism, and racism. One more attempt on the part of effete, intellectual snobs to hijack American culture. This revolutionary bunch may even have invaded the sanctity of your own home. Their leader, one William Morris, said this: "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." If that isn't code for "Quit shopping at Wal-Mart," I don't know what is. And the loose confederation of Delaware museums, libraries, and social (socialist?) organizations sponsoring this figures nobody will make a stink about it just because these ultra-liberals got together a few years ago. Well I'm giving you the straight dope here. Draw your own conclusions.

William Morris (1834-1896)
Design for Cover of "The Earthly Paradise,"
Pen and ink drawing, Delaware Art Musuem.
Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935.
Twenty -four tales in verse tell of Scandinavian wanderers
who seek everlasting life with a group of Pagan Greeks.

Useful & Beautiful: The Transatlantic Arts of William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites, focuses on the British poet, designer and socialist William Morris and on the Pre-Raphaelites and the Arts and Crafts and Aesthetic movements of the late 19th century. It examines the philosophical and artistic connections between American and British artists in two radical (italics mine) movements, Pre-Raphaelitism and Aestheticism. So right off the top we've got the University using that "r-word."

The Anglo-Saxon Review: A Quarterly Miscellany,
edited by Lady Randolph Spencer Churchill, March 1900.

This short-lived magazine of literature, art, and politics,
was conceived by American-born Jennie Jerome,
who married a member of the British aristocracy and acquired a title.
She perfectly embodied the English stereotype of an American Girl:
willful, glamorous, and free-living.
(One of her lovers was no less a personage than
the future king, Edward VII.)

These movements, which championed the cause of "Beauty," flourished in both the fine arts and decorative arts. A conference and related exhibitions will be held October 7 to 9, 2010, at the University of Delaware and at the Delaware Art Museum and the Winterthur Museum & Country Estate. Organized with the assistance of the William Morris Society of the United States, the conference will highlight the strengths of the University of Delaware Library's rare books, art, and manuscripts collections; Winterthur’s important holdings in American decorative arts; and the Delaware Art Museum’s superlative Pre-Raphaelite collection, the largest outside Britain. It doesn't sound so subversive, until you dig a bit deeper.

Elbert Green Hubbard (1856-1915)
Little Journeys to the Homes of English Authors: William Morris
East Aurora, N.Y.: The Roycrofters, 1900.

Elbert Hubbard, an Indiana-born socialist,
founded an upstate New York state commune based on Morris's ideals.

Pre-Raphaelites and Aesthetes to be featured here include: John Ruskin, art critic, poet and sexual deviant; Dante Gabriel Rossetti painter, poet, and chloral hydrate addict; Oscar Wilde author, playwright, and homosexual; and William Morris, designer, book artist, and socialist. Their art was linked thematically and stylistically, and they have been called the first avant-garde movement in art. So essentially these guys started the whole leftist culture war on family values about 120 years ago. And they managed to infiltrate even the works of some All-American good eggs like Mark Twain and Bret Harte. (See the University of Delaware Library's exhibit: London Bound: American Writers in Britain, 1870-1916.)

Bret Harte (1836-1902) The Queen of the Pirate Isle:
Illustrated by Kate Greenaway,
Engraved and Printed by Edmund Evans.

London: Chatto and Windus, [1886].

John Ruskin told artist Kate Greenaway her illustrations
for this All-American work were "the best thing you've ever done."

There's even an exhibit focusing on the way in which the designs of William Morris and his partners in crime have invaded our everyday culture. The Morris Kitsch Archive is an installation created by British artist David Mabb that contains over 720 images of commercially produced objects decorated with the textile and wallpaper designs of William Morris. According to the collection's website: "Morris was the founder of the Socialist League and a standard-bearer of Socialism; he maintained a fierce hatred of capitalism and likely would be shocked to see the many money-making projects that his designs have inspired since his death." Says David Mabb, "The archive illustrates how Morris’ designs have been appropriated for a mass consumer society. The designs have become widely available at the expense of the qualities and values inherent to Morris’ original Utopian project, which offered in its vision of the fecundity of nature the hope of alternative ways of living in the world." So some us of probably have these things in our homes, and don't even know it...

Daisy Print Wellington Boot
Detail from The Morris Kitsch Archive,
Laminated digital print.

(Courtesy of the artist. Photograph by Tamara Henriques.)
Is a pair of these hiding in YOUR daughter's closet?

Joann Browning, associate dean for the arts in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Delaware, says the conference "provides a wonderful opportunity to draw upon the rich array of resources within the arts, humanities and social sciences at the University and to engage with our community partners" in multidisciplinary discussions. "From poster art of the 1890s to bookmaking to stained glass to fashion and Oscar Wilde, the menu of events, presentations, exhibits and live performances offers something to pique everyone's interest," Browning said. "We're also thrilled that the conference will include an exhibition and gallery talk in the newly renovated Old College Gallery, as well as a live performance of Wilde's classic comedy of manners The Importance of Being Earnest." Clearly, the idea is to spread these revolutionary ideas to as many of the ordinary folk of Delaware as possible.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1828-1882.
La Bella Mano, 1875, Oil on canvas.
Delaware Art Museum,
Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935

The painting represents Venus assisted by her winged attendants.
The effect of a halo(!) is created by the convex mirror showing the bed,
which entices a present or future lover.

Ann Ardis, senior associate dean for the humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center at the University of Delaware, said the conference will bring worldwide attention to Delaware. Maybe she just never anticipated getting negative attention from everyday, God-fearing Americans who've had enough of this sort of thing. But here at Booktryst we always do our best to be fair and balanced, so you can be the judge. Do your homework, feel free to leave your comments here, and when you see it on the O'Reilly Factor or Glenn Beck, remember we had it here first.

Previously On Booktryst: Down With Industrialism! William Morris And The Private Press Revolt.

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