The Rossetti family has come to town! Well, famous painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti is always a resident in Wilmington: His emblematic Victorian works are central to the Delaware Art Museum’s iconic collection of Pre-Raphaelite art, the largest in the world outside of Britain.
But now there’s even more to see. The Rossettis (on view at the Museum through January 28, 2024) is packed with paintings, drawings, and watercolors, the first major retrospective of Dante Gabriel’s work to be seen in the United States, along with other visual treats.
This major international loan exhibition is a partnership of DelArt and the Tate Britain in London, where it just closed, and it gives art lovers even more reasons to head to this Wilmington museum. Here, Dante Gabriel’s works are on view alongside the art, poetry, and prose of his influential siblings and his wife, Elizabeth Siddal. Siddal – long viewed as simply a muse and model – was an artist in her own right, and this exhibition rightly positions her amid her seminal mid-19th century peers.
Revolution. Partnership. Love.
Rebelling against the insularity and formalism of Britain’s academic painters, in 1848 a group of seven young artists formed a secret society. Loosely organized, they took their inspiration from the artists prior to the 16th century painter Raphael, finding in them a purity and immediacy they felt was missing from the Victorians. They titled themselves the “Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood,” and while the name continues, the “brotherhood” quickly expanded to include women in the artistic circle as well.
In The Rossettis, works by Dante Gabriel in the DelArt collection are contextualized alongside over 150 objects of his family’s works drawn from international public and private collections. And to the exhibition, DelArt has added items not on view at the Tate, including paintings, drawings, watercolors, and writings by Dante Gabriel, drawings by Siddal, and poetry and prose by Christina, Maria, and William Michael Rossetti.
Exhibition highlights include a trio of portraits of Siddal, reunited for the first time since their 1854 creation. And the exhibition also reunites two major (and large) paintings –Mnemosyne (in the DelArt collection) and Proserpine (in the Tate collection). Dante Gabriel created them to be seen as a pair, but until now they have been separated by an ocean.
The poets, writers, and painters of the prodigiously artistic Rossetti family blended their passion for social justice with their commitment to reforming outdated academic artistic traditions.
The Museum’s Executive Director Molly Giordano says, “Partnering with Tate Britain, and its extraordinary collection, makes this exhibition an unprecedented opportunity for enthusiasts of the Pre-Raphaelite movement to see so many rare objects in one location and enjoy immersive programming.”
And Pre-Raphaelite Curator Sophie Lynford adds, “While [19th century Wilmington industrialist and art collector] Samuel P. Bancroft acquired art by many Pre-Raphaelites, he was drawn most intensely to Rossetti and would be delighted that this show reunites works that haven’t been displayed together for over 150 years.”
Visitors – whether new to the Pre-Raphaelites or familiar with their work – will experience fresh insights that address contemporary debates about romance, class, sex, and gender. And the stunning exhibition installation is also a visual treat. There are special guided tours scheduled regularly throughout the exhibition’s run, along with talks, events, and special merchandise in the Museum’s well-stocked shop, which is also an independent bookstore.
As it’s the time of the year for holiday travel and gifts – and the Delaware Art Museum is the only American venue for this monumental exhibition – this is an ideal time to experience The Rossettis. Whenever you’re visiting the Brandywine region – or if you have visitors coming to you – you won’t go wrong if you include this beautiful exhibition, and Delaware’s jewel-box museum, in your fall or winter plans.