October 14, 2016

Tate Britain

Foyer of Tate Britain
Millbank, London
London is full of cultural and artistic treasures, most of which are free.  Every museum I visited from the British Museum to the National Portrait Gallery to Tate Britain was without a entry fee (donation optional).  And did I ever take advantage of it! 
Rossetti mural at the Pimlico Tube Station
I knew that the Tate Britain was going to be my favorite before I even visited for one simple reason: its Pre-Raphaelite collection.  Indeed, I feasted on the paintings in serene spaces free from crowds, lines of Romantic poetry dancing in my head.

The Lady of Shallot by John William Waterhouse is my favorite Pre-Raphaelite painting of all time, named after the Romantic poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. A print of this painting used to hang in my room as a teen. I felt a particular affinity for the unnamed Lady, overdramatic and angst-ridden as I was.

Tears welled in my eyes when I finally got to see it in person this summer - no less magnificent in scope and size than I expected. The colors were as rich and vibrant as I remembered. And even after all these years, it still had the power to move me ... "The mirror crack'd from side to side. /'The curse has come upon me,' cried the Lady of Shallot."

Ophelia by John Everett Millais
My second favorite hung nearby the Lady - Ophelia by John Everett Millais. Yes, for some reason, my teenaged self identified with tragic women surrounded by or drowning in water. 

I examined this one for a long time, appreciating the greenery and the exquisite detail of Ophelia's water-soaked dress, the delicate flowers around her, and lastly - her anguished face.  If this painting looks familiar to you, it's because she inspired the haunting funeral scene in Star Wars Episode 3.

April Love by Arthur Hughes
Mariana in the Moated Grange by John Everett Millais
For some reason I would remember this painting as Mariana in the Bloated Grange - imagining the reason why she would get up from her work with an aching back.

Actually, it's from another poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, called Mariana - again a solitary, pining figure:

She only said, 'My life is dreary,
He cometh not,' she said;
She said, 'I am aweary, aweary,'

I would that I were dead!'

Emma Harte as Circe by George Romney
Emma Harte was only 17 years old when she was painted here - already an astonishing beauty and the mistress of a politician. She would go on to become the mistress of Admiral Lord Nelson.
My Beloved by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
There are many other works besides Pre-Raphaelites in the Tate, including this familiar, unfinished version of Portrait of Madame X by John Singer Sargent which hangs in the New York Met.
Study of Madame X by John Singer Sargent
There is also a couple of small rooms dedicated to William Blake's amazing paintings and sketches.

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