That a poet could enjoy huge popularity in mid-career and still be popularly admired more than a century after his death, is quite extraordinary. Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) was a household name when he wrote The Lady of Shalott in 1842. Queen Victoria made him Poet Laureate in 1850, a role he held until his death. He was made a peer in 1883; his son and heir, Hallam, Lord Tennyson was a governor of South Australia and the second governor- general of Australia. Tennyson’s impact extended to the visual arts; his early poetry was a major influence on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, many of whose works are to be exhibited at the National Gallery of Australia from December 14 until April 28. Titled Love & Desire: Pre-Raphaelite Masterpieces from the Tate, the exhibition at NGA will include 40 of the Tate’s greatly loved works and a further 40 loans from other British and Australian collections.
Two of the ‘hero works’ being shown are John Everett Millais’ Ophelia and John William Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott.
The Brotherhood came together in 1848 at the Royal Academy to challenge the continuing obsession with the great masters, taking their inspiration instead from the earlier medieval and early Renaissance painters. Tennyson inspired the Brotherhood. The Lady of Shalott alone was a subject for Rossetti, Holman Hunt, Waterhouse (three times) and Elizabeth Siddal. Theirs are paintings which tell stories, the viewer longs to know more; they are a visual feast.
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