Henry T. Dunn: Rossetti Reading Proofs of Sonnets...

THE CULT OF BEAUTY: THE VICTORIAN AVANT-GARDE 1860-1900 At the Legion of Honor Museum, San Francisco February 18, 2012 – June 17, 2012. It’s time for some moments looking at beautiful art. My friend Moon Granoff had come in from Philadelphia, and today, a rainy afternoon was perfect museum time. This genre pulls you right in ––

Moon marveling at Aubrey Beardsley

I followed a thread of looking at art that showed private places, quiet rooms, or intimate moments; close ups, with the focus on the mouth of a beautiful girl, or a beautiful design like the wall with Arabic and Andalusian designs. My photos are stealth, as the guards are frequent and vigilant and the signs say “no photos!” So I didn’t get all the names. But here are some things that were beautiful to see. The painting of the room (above)  has Rossetti, a painter and poet reading poetry to a friend in his drawing room.

Rossetti: Bocca Baciata

<> Here is a stunning picture of  Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s mistress, Fanny Cornforth. The title of the picture (1859) Bocca Baciata translates “Lips That Have Been Kissed.”

James McNeill Whistler’s 1862 Symphony in White No. 1: The White Girl (notorious for its inclusion in Paris’s famed Salon des Refusés of 1863), showing his paramour and muse Jo Hiffernan. Wow, is this beautiful! [See below]. It seems to stand larger than life. There is the relaxed abstract brushwork of the painting – except for the hands and face – similar to Manet. That is hard to see in art books. Whistler was an American who spent time in Bohemian France and England.

Laus Veneris (detail) by Burne-Jones 1868 seems to have come out of a poem by Swinburne, written in 1868 called From the Hill of Venus, which is about Tannhauser and his knights (see background) at the legendary home of Venus. These are her attendants, with the knights in the background. From the poem:

Laus Veneris (detail)

Between her lips the steam of them is sweet

The languor in her eyes of many lyres… …

Her beds are full of perfumes and sad sound,

Her doors are made with music, and barred round

With sighing and with laughter and with tears…

The show has many art objects, furniture, interior design, tea sets and a fantastic iron gate. What a time for beauty! But it was the light in the paintings that I carried home with me.         Enjoy! <>  <>

Memblandt: tile panel and design

Whistler: Symphony in White #1