English of later started Symbolist, Aesthetic and even Art

English artist, Gabriel Charles
Dante Rossetti (1828 –1882) was one of the best painters in 19th
century. He was a key member, one of the leaders and a moving spirit to the
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood group (P.R.B.).
This movement later influenced Symbolist and Aesthetic artists. This essay purpose
is to explore the means Rossetti’s work affected the path of later started
Symbolist, Aesthetic and even Art Nouveau movements.  Discuss and compare Rossetti’s artworks to
other artists and how He remained as a leading role till now. However, the main
purpose of this essay is to examine Rossetti’s influences in Alphonse Mucha’s
works, comparing the art of artists to determine the interchange of ideas.


Rossetti was a British man with many
artistic skills. Said to be one of the most extraordinary man that lived in19th
century, being equally talented in various fields like poetry, illustration and
even doing translator work, but his most important print left in history, was
recorded by his title as a painter. Rossetti started painting from early age,
he attended King’s College School for (1837 to 1842) five years, after which he
left to seek higher education. He was accepted into the Royal Academy at F. S.
Cary’s Academy of Art. His studies didn’t last long. After a short period of
one year, Dante left the academy dissatisfied with then poorly executed studying
approach. This decision had brought, then, probably unimaginative changes in
history of art, as the artist took a major role in co-founding the famous
movement that became the bridge between realism and abstract movement.

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 In year 1848, Rossetti with other famous
painters, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt formed a circle,
promoting new artistic ideals. The tree men called themselves Pre-Raphaelite
brotherhood. This group gained more members- young painters, sculptors, poets,
critics. The main goal of the movement was to rebel against academies teaching
methods that restricted the creativity of young artists. They rejected the soft
forms and vague morals in paintings and proposed to bring back the Italian art
simplicity and its purity, that was highly valuated before by the famous artist
Raphael. The members paid high attention to symbolism, trying to return the
intense coloring, overflowing details and elaborate compositions of Italian
Quattrocento movement. As an example, pre-Raphaelite movement was discussed by
the well-known critic John Ruskin. In his book ‘The Desire of My Eyes– The Life & Work of John Ruskin’ he
states his opinion about the movement, describing it as very meticulous and
lifelike. “Every Pre-Raphaelite landscape background is painted to the last
touch, in the open air, from the thing itself. Every Pre-Raphaelite figure,
however studied in expression, is a true portrait of some living person.” (John
Ruskin 1990, p.211).


Till now Rossetti’s talent is
recognized between the greatest 19th century artists. He is primarily known for
his paint works depicting female portraits. Exploring the themes of religious
aspects, mythology, eternal beauty, the relation of humans with the divine beings
in his art. The inspiration to create rise mainly from his personal life.  Its no secret that Rossetti had a close
relationship with his models. The most famous paintings of his, are the images
of his wife Jane Morris that was his biggest muse and inspiration. Although his
lots of works have Jane as a model, they are not portraits of herself, but of
her as recreation of the famous mythic characters of Venus, Pandora, Persephone
or Beatrice.


Jane paintings, become one of the
important icon for the P.R.B. The bold new realism in Rossetti’s works created
controversies, and brought mayor changes to the artistic world. He chalenged
then fallowed perspective rules, using alarming composition instead, making
everyone uncomfortable with the images then considered as unusual and almost
inappropriately realistic in a way that could be named as “disgusting” by the
nobility and art critics. An example of such art can be demonstrated in
Rossetti’s Ecce Ancilla Domini! (The
1850 (Figure 1.). In this painting the depiction
of the Virgin is different from then common norms of the renaissance art. Its
shows the radical interpreting artist uses to tell the story of annunciation.  Giving more importance to perception and
subtle details for more humanistic side of the saint figures. Artist abandons
the traditional image of angel as a winged creature, leaving the only way to
difference angel Gabriel from normal human with the mysterious flames that
create the illusion of floating in the air. A poetic balance and harmonious
feeling can be sensed from neutralized colors, while the white gowns symbolize
the virgin’s purity, the Lilly represents the conception. The painting has no
foreground that distances the viewer from the scene depicted, that allows to
immerse in the story as it seems like it’s happening before one’s eyes.
Although nowadays this piece is constantly praised then it was harshly
criticized for the bold representation of religious scene. The journal ‘Athenaeum’ critics that praised Rossetti’s previous
works, give a harsh feedback in their article about Figure1, stating that it
was: “an unintelligent imitation of the mere technicalities of old painters, a
work evidently thrust by the artist into the eye of the spectator more with the
presumption of a teacher than in the modesty of a hopeful and true aspiration
after excellence.” (Athenaeum 1929, p.149) Even the harsh opinions and
humiliating comments did not stop Rossetti’s art to challenge traditional art
and promote P.R.B. ideals, encouraging brave artists to abandon the restricted
academy art style and follow the new movement. All P.R.M members received a lot
of negative attention from the press, but knowing that even bad publicity made
their movement more notable, they used it in their convenience to help raise
awareness about their practice. With this thinking, they moved from religious
theme, to modern life paintings.


Starting from the year 1862,
Rossetti started to paint mainly large, female figures, sensuous and dramatic.  Lots of famous Rossetti’s paintings, were
inspired by his red-haired wife and major muse Jane. Casting the girl that was
probably not considered as beautiful at that times, started to change the
understanding of beauty everyone had. His perception of beauty influenced the
European Symbolists, making him a major precursor of the Aesthetic movement. His
influence can be sensed even in the famous Czech artist Alphonse Mucha’s work.
But how could Rossetti’s P.R.M. artwork be influential to Art Nouveau movement artist?

To start with, Alphonse Mucha (1860 –
1939), Czech artist, is best known for his posters depicting beautiful women. He
worked in variety of media including printing, painting, jewelry, furniture and
even more. Mucha did not like the fact that he was associated with Art Noveau,
and preferred the word “movement”. Like Rossetti’s, majority of Mucha’s work
are portraits of stunning females.  He
searched for inspiration from Czech traditions and artwork he grew up on. This
allows to speculate that Rossetti was one of them, as Mucha was not afraid of
learning or trying new things.

The movement Art Nouveau
started in the 1800’s, London, and
was the artistic rebellion that promoted freedom, desire to get rid of
distinction between low and high art, to bring art to everyday life, to allow
poor people to have the same artworks that rich people decorated their houses.
Similar ideas can be noted between both movements, the require of artistic
freedom of creation, romantic idealism or the portraying of beauty. The best
way to determine the connection between two artists is the comparation of their
work. For example, Rossetti’s painting   Astarte Syriaca ,1877 (Figure 2), and
Mucha’s lithograph print, F. Champenois,1900 (Figure 3). Although these well-known
pieces were created just 23 years apart, one can note how art changed and
evolved trough years leaving an enormous difference in style, but with closer
observation the similarities start to appear. Firstly, in the Figure 2 the posture
of female imposing in the center of painting has the traditional pose used in
Botticelli’s Venus masterpiece. While Figure 3 does not have the same pose, the
language of the body conveys similar mood. The important fact is that in the
Figure 2, author used Jane his wife as a model, while the female with pale face
and dark hair would not be called as a beautiful he also challenged the sensual
thematic giving the piece a dreamy suggestiveness. Color combination between
the light and dark, the golden details plays a big role in creating the
mysterious feeling, and the piece can be called as a female fatale showing the
power of the character almost as a goodness. In Mucha’s image can be noted that
the artist does not try to make the character to look like the real-life model,
but instead uses the lines and the flowing line movements to describe the
realistic motives. He uses bright, but faded colors to enlighten the image, the
golden details make the female look like powerful goodness. Both pieces can be
named as the representation of what the artists thought of as the ideal beauty,
and have the similarity in what could be called as languid and sensuous female
portrait. The influence can be sensed from the detailly flowing lines that
creates the illusion of movement, the proportions and the soft movements and
gestures of figures. The expressions of the faces- straight gaze to the viewer
and the subtle use of details as flowers or the composition that were borrowed
from the style used by P.R.B movement.


 Rossetti’s view of beauty, inspired the new
aesthetical understanding of how art should be, instead of praising the works
that valued the moral or narrative function in the industry of art, the new
aesthetical movement took place with the preferences to devote to creation and
admiration of simple beauty. In response, a philosophy doctor Eric Garberson in
his dissertation wrote:

“For Rossetti, the representation of
alluring, beautiful women were the most powerful way to express the experience
of Aesthetic beauty as intoxicating, sensual, and even morally ambiguous.” (Eric Garberson, 2010). Example for this art is Rossetti’s painting, Monna Vanna, 1966 (Figure 4).  While the Alex Mitrani, curator at the
exhibition that took place in Madrid in year 2009, described Mucha’s work as: “The
seductive sensuality of his women is associated with the vigour of vegetation.
The weightless quality of the figures depicted reflects the conception of
eroticism as something ethereal and intangible” (Alex Mitrani, 2009 p.5). Including (Figure 4), many later works of artist do not have any story and the only
purpose is to please the eye with beautiful images. In Rossetti’s paintings,
the part that stands out is the beautifully painted hair of young ladies. It
almost appears as flowing, with the clothes painted in similar cursive style,
makes the women in painting be simply dazzling with touch of elegant aura. The
interchange of ideas between artists, can be sensed in Mucha’s The Seasons: Autumn. 1866 (figure 5). In
this poster artist does follow the previous models of Rossetti’s aesthetical values
using his own style. Like Rossetti, Mucha pays a lot of attention to the
movement of line, that is clearly visible in the composition and organic
movement of the hair and clothes that it twists and entwines around itself in
both works. This reveals the artistic influence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti in
Alphonse Mucha’s creations, shows the fascination artists share, in depiction
of the sensuous aspects of female beauty into fine arts.


Lastly, the most provocative item
from Rossetti’s collection would be a painting produced in year 1868, Venus Verticordia (Figure 6). In this
piece artist is not afraid to use half naked female to represent the famous
Venus. The character looks very serene, standing in the center of the
composition, framed by the flowers, creating the harmonious balance and piece
between the Venus and the environment. Meanwhile the discussion of balance
between female beauty and nature is a common thread of Mucha’s work. It can be
observed in the lithograph poster Times
of the Day ,1899 (Figure 7). It shows a series of images with four women
that represent different time of day. The images have highly elaborated organic
ornaments that highlights the magnificent ladies as mysterious goddesses of
eternal beauty. The portraying of gorgeous females – organic twining flow of
hair strands, full lipped beauty’s, the bravura of body language, heavy lidded
eyes and the stunning ornamental décor shows the manifesting influence of Dante
Gabriel Rossetti in Alphonse Mucha’s work.


This essay has explored Gabriel
Charles Dante Rossetti’s artistic life and the impact it had in arts world.
Broad examination of the changes, the Pre-Raphaelite movement promoted during
the 19th century and their supported artistic ideas explains the
drastic change that happened in art industry. The findings of this study, suggest
that Rossetti was very important in the formation of new symbolism and Art
Nouveau movements. Explaining how the aesthetic values were borrowed by fellow
artist Alphonse Mucha. The interchange of ideas can be sensed through the fluid
beauty and the link between sensuality and spiritual values in both artist
practices. Each artist has his own style and techniques, but the importance of
female beauty is the main idea for their work. Their art does not intend to be
a measure of realistically telling of a story, but it’s purpose become to
please the eye of the viewer with purely beautiful images of woman. Rossetti
and Dante, are both artists from different epoch, but still can be named as very
contemporary, as their works remain highly valuated and praised even today, and
their art keeps inspiring young artists to persuade the aesthetic ideals of