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The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Sophie Anderson and Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale: Of children and virgins.
    1. Waterfalls.
    2. The composition of the painting.
    3. A painting of a miniature woman.
    4. The Wise and Foolish Virgins by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale.
    5. Strongly reminiscent of the work of Burne Jones.
    6. the place of a woman in such a painting.
  3. Lucy Maddox brown and Annie Louise Swynnerton: the woman rebel.
    1. The apinting Margaret Roper Rescuing the Head of Her Father.
    2. The structure of the painting.
    3. The traditional image of womanhood.
    4. Joan of Arc.
    5. An image of woman that is both real and surreal.
  4. Evelyn de Morgan and Kate Elizabeth Bunce: woman as a myth.
    1. The structure of Evelyn de Morgan's Hope in the Prison of Despair.
    2. The first possibility for interpretation of the painting.
    3. Studying the aspect of the two figures.
    4. Kate Elizabeth Bunce's Melody.
  5. Bibliography.

A considerable number of women were active in every phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Some, as was the case for Elizabeth Siddal and Lucy Madox Brown, incorporated the ideas of their husbands and fathers into their own art. Others were deeply influenced by the freshness of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, by the resourceful, pious and naturalistic vision of its members and followers. At the same time, the condition of Victorian women was more than ambiguous ? women had no right to vote but could open their own commerce, were published and read, and their daughters would soon know Margaret Fuller. However, what characterizes the period is a particular dichotomy of virtue and vice ? that ambivalent tension residing in the conflict between the prototypes of the ?perfect woman? and the ?seductive siren? ? and the corresponding birth of feminine self-awareness. Throughout the Victorian age and well into the first decades of the 20th century, there is this continual effort to find the nature of femininity, to reflect upon the mystery of woman and to redefine her role in the modern world. The study of the attempts of women-painters to represent themselves, or rather to depict the very concept of femininity, is therefore all the more fascinating.

[...] The warm autumn colours, the careful handling of light to portray the girl's face and hair, the meticulously traced details of the child's dress, and the accuracy with which her basket is painted give the whole a typically Pre-Raphaelite harmony. Colours parallel each other; from the blushing face of the girl, the viewer's eye is directed to the red apples, scattered here and there on the ground, and is brought back to the girl again. The composition of the painting is precise and well-balanced. [...]

[...] It seems almost transparent on account of that unique play of light and colour which is so characteristic for the faces of many Pre-Raphaelite models and which Swynnerton had succeeded to implement in her work. The mouth is depicted slightly open and with the eyes closed there is no other Pre-Raphaelite painting that parallels the unearthly sensuality and out-of-this-world transience of D. G. Rossetti's Beata Beatrix so well. Joan of Arc provides an image of woman that is both real and surreal. [...]

[...] The upper one would then correspond to the blooming youth and naivety of the virgins, while the lower one would stand for their imminent future, their ?fall?/descent and death. In such a context, the rope hanging down from the bell is no longer the sign of an announcement of marriage but an announcement of death; it is transformed into an uncanny memento mori. In that sense, Brickdale has carried the representation of woman a bit further, placing her women in a potentially perilous context, showing the impending perspectives any woman has regardless of her social or financial status. [...]

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