From Liverpool to London, the two "thoughtful and detailed" major exhibitions telling stories of the Pre-Raphaelite

By Culture24 Reporter | 20 February 2016 | Updated: 19 February 2016

London's Leighton House Museum and Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery have just opened two major Pre-Raphaelite exhibitions

A photo of the interior building from the Pre-Raphaelites on Paper: Victorian Drawings from the Lanigan Collection at Leighton House Museum
Pre-Raphaelites on Paper: Victorian Drawings from the Lanigan Collection at Leighton House Museum© Kevin Moran Photography
Two collectors play key roles in the beautiful Pre-Raphaelite exhibitions currently being held at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery and Leighton House Museum in London.

A Canadian, Dr Dennis T Lanigan, spent 30 years compiling the works in the London show, set in Lord Leighton’s opulent home and studio and ranging from preparatory sketches to highly finished drawings.

A photo of the interior building from the Pre-Raphaelites on Paper: Victorian Drawings from the Lanigan Collection at Leighton House Museum
Dr Dennis T Lanigan has spent decades assembling a collection by more than 60 artists© Kevin Moran Photography
At the Walker, part of the catalogue tells the story of John Miller, a noted 19th century art collector and friend of Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

“John Miller has always been central to the Pre-Raphaelite story,” says Ann Bukantas, the Head of Fine Art at National Museums Liverpool.

A photo of the Arthur Hughes painting In the Grass showing a woman lying in the grass
Arthur Hughes, In the Grass (circa 1864-5)© Museums Sheffield
“He was a friend and patron of many of the artists, especially Ford Madox Brown and, in Liverpool, William Davis.

"We have new information about Miller’s background, and the business dealings that enabled him to collect paintings – and sometimes forced him to sell them.”

A photo of Ford Madox Brown painting Walton-on-the-Naze showing a colourful landscape and a rainbow
Ford Madox Brown, Walton-on-the-Naze (1860) (at the Walker Art Gallery)© Birmingham Museums Trust
Several works at the Walker show scenes of rural life and British landscape as they were once viewed by Liverpool painters including Davis, James Campbell and William JJC Bond.

“For many years, we’ve planned to tell the story of the Pre-Raphaelites through a Liverpool lens,” says Sandra Penketh, the Director of Art Galleries. “The Pre-Raphaelite movement is an incredibly appealing one.”

An image of a painting by William Lindsay Windus, Burd Helen, showing various figures in a forest
William Lindsay Windus, Burd Helen (1856)© Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool
Liverpool was the only provincial town to have its own Pre-Raphaelite school, the Liverpool Academy. “The city of Liverpool influenced a movement that would change the course of British art in the 19th century,” points out Christopher Newall, the curator of the exhibition.

“The support of the city of Liverpool was invaluable in establishing and positioning Pre-Raphaelitism within the Victorian art world.”

A photo of a painting by Ford Madox Brown, The Coat of Many Colours, showing two figures with a horse
Ford Madox Brown, The Coat of Many Colours (1866)© Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool
The Victorian Drawings at Leighton House, which consistently demonstrate the flair of British draftsmanship at the time, also present a personal link between the faraway collector and the house.

“In 1982 I acquired my first work by the Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic Movement artists I really wanted to collect – an oil sketch by Frederic Leighton for Greek Girl Dancing,” says Lanigan.

An image of the Frederick Sandys drawing King Pelles Daughter Bearing the Vessel of the Sangreal (1861)
Frederick Sandys, King Pelles Daughter Bearing the Vessel of the Sangreal (1861)© NGC, Promised Gift from the Lanigan Collection
“I had initially visited Leighton House in 1976 when I was a medical student and I fell in love with the house and with Leighton's art.

"I never would have imagined that 40 years later pieces from my collection would be exhibited there.”

A photo of Lawrence Alma-Tadema's Study for The Vintage Festival (circa 1869) showing various drawn figures cavorting
Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Study for The Vintage Festival (circa 1869)© NGC, Promised Gift from the Lanigan Collection
The permanent collection of the house has been cleared for the exhibition, allowing the drawings to be hung throughout the historic interiors.

Studies for Edward Burne-Jones’ The Wheel of Fortune (1883), Holman Hunt’s Eve of St Agnes (1848) and Leighton’s Cymon and Iphigenia (1884) are among them.

A photo of the Frederic Leighton drawing Study of a Male Head for Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna is Carried in Processsion through the Streets of Florence
Frederic Leighton, Study of a Male Head for Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna is Carried in Processsion through the Streets of Florence (1853)© NGC
Leighton is represented through five drawings, including a study for Clytie, his last work, which was acquired by the house in 2008.

Rossetti’s wife, Lizzie Siddal, also has her works shown, and there is a study by William Morris for his only known easel painting, La Belle Iseult, made in around 1857.

An image of the Frederic Leighton drawing, Study of Iphigenia for Cymon and Iphigenia, which shows a figure slumbering
Frederic Leighton, Study of Iphigenia for Cymon and Iphigenia (1883)© NGC, Promised Gift from the Lanigan Collection
“Leighton prized drawing as a medium and was himself a significant collector of drawings,” says Daniel Robbins, the Senior Curator for the House Museum.

“The Lanigan Collection is as thoughtful and detailed as it is important.”

A photo of the painting Edward Clifford, Mens Conscia Recti (A Mind Concious of Rectitude), showing a woman in front of mountains
Edward Clifford, Mens Conscia Recti (A Mind Concious of Rectitude) (1868)© NGC
Much of Lanigan’s collection has been given or promised to the National Gallery of Canada, whose Director, Marc Mayer, feels the exchange “must have been written in the stars”.

“Frederic Leighton was the first artist outside Canada whose work was collected by our institution,” he says.

A photo of the interior building from the Pre-Raphaelites on Paper: Victorian Drawings from the Lanigan Collection at Leighton House Museum
The collection is being displayed in public in the UK for the first time© Kevin Moran Photography
“It was in 1882 that Leighton himself donated one of his paintings to the Gallery at the invitation of our founders, the Marquess of Lorne and Princess Louise.

"To say that we are thrilled about this collaboration is an understatement.”

  • Pre-Raphaelites on Paper: Victorian Drawings from the Lanigan Collection is at Leighton House Museum, London until May 29 2016. Follow the museum on Twitter @RBKCLeightonH and Facebook. Pre-Raphaelites: Beauty and Rebellion is at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool until June 5. Follow the gallery on Twitter @walkergallery and Facebook.

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Read Culture24's guides to the best exhibitions to see in London and the North in 2016.
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