Art market

First exhibition of pre-Raphaelite sculpture

The response to the first critical study of this subject has been enthusiastic



Following the Tate Gallery’s Pre-Raphaelite exhibition in 1984, which concentrated almost exclusively on paintings, the art historian Benedict Read and the dealer Joanna Barnes conceived the idea of an exhibition devoted entirely to Pre-Raphaelite sculpture. The result, “Pre-Raphaelite Sculpture, nature and imagination in British sculpture 1848-1914”, which continues at the Matthiesen Gallery until 12 December, has collected together works from both private and public collections, many of which have not been exhibited since the last century at the Royal Academy. Among several discoveries made during the organisation of the exhibition is John Hancock’s life-sized plaster statue of Beatrice, exhibited in the Great Exhibition of 1851 and only recently found in the stores of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

One of the exhibition organisers’ aims was to trace the development of sculpture from the first-generation Pre-Raphaelites through to third-generation sculptors such as Frampton. Artists included are Thomas Woolner (one of the original seven members of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood), Bernhard Smith and Alexander Munro, whose marble group of “Paolo and Francesca” has come to represent the quintessence of Pre-Raphaelite sculpture. Among later sculptors, who had come under the influence of Edward Burne-Jones in their use of mixed media and colour, are George Frampton, Robert Anning-Bell, William Reynolds-Stephens and Alfred Gilbert. Benedict Read declared himself to be “agreeably impressed by the response—we seem to have sparked off something”.

The catalogue is sponsored by the Henry Moore Foundation and the exhibition travels to the Birmingham City Art Gallery (15 January to 15 March).