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Pre-Raphaelites at Home

Join us on a unique eight-day tour of England to visit museums, private homes, and churches featuring the work of members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and their circle. Organized especially for members of the Delaware Art Museum by Arts & Crafts Tours, the trip will culminate in a private viewing of the Tate Britain exhibition Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde opening in September, where several works from the Museum’s own Bancroft collection will be displayed. The Brotherhood was founded at a gathering in John Everett Millais’ parents’ house on Gower Street in Bloomsbury in 1848. In addition to Millais, the painters and artists whose work we will see include William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Wilmington’s Samuel Bancroft Jr., a Quaker textile mill owner, was ‘shocked with delight’ upon viewing his first Pre-Raphaelite painting in 1880 at the home of William Turner in Cheshire. A decade later he purchased Rossetti’s Water Willow from Turner’s estate sale. Subsequent purchases formed the basis of the Delaware Art Museum’s extraordinary collection.

Bancroft was clearly modeling his collection on those of the first Pre-Raphaelite patrons, many of whom were, like himself, industrialists. They lived primarily in the midland and north of England and through their generosity many of the museums in the area were formed. We therefore begin our journey in the north. We will fly into Manchester and stay in a fine country house hotel close to both Manchester and Liverpool. From there we have arranged visits to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight, just across the Mersey River. This planned community was built by William Hesketh Lever, later Lord Lever, the founder of Lever Brothers soap company. Both of these galleries have superb collections of Pre-Raphaelite paintings.

Many of the churches in and around Liverpool were built through the generosity of individual donors. We will visit All Hallow’s Parish Church in the suburb of Allerton, erected by ship owner John Bibby in memory of his wife. The building includes a glorious set of 14 stained-glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones and produced by Morris and Company.

We then head south to Manchester, a city built on the Industrial Revolution. We first visit the Manchester Town Hall designed by Alfred Waterhouse (also the architect of the Museum of Natural History in South Kensington, London). The building itself is overflowing with wonderful furniture, paintings, stained glass, and tapestries. It is also home to twelve murals depicting the history of Manchester painted by Ford Maddox Brown, a painter and mentor to the Pre-Raphaelites.

Our next stop will be the Manchester Art Gallery, which was designed by Gothic revival architect, Sir Charles Barry. (Barry and A.W.N. Pugin were responsible for the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament in London.) The Manchester Art Gallery houses one of the greatest collections of Pre-Raphaelite art in the world.

Just a bit further south from Manchester is Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton. Wightwick, now a National Trust property, houses perhaps the most complete interior by Morris & Company in addition to a lovely selection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings. As we will be visiting on a day when the property is closed to the public, you will have a real chance to get to know it as a house and home. Furnishings include the designs of William de Morgan, G.F. Watts, E.W. Godwin, and Burne-Jones –a veritable treasure chest of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Our next stop is in Birmingham, another important city of the Industrial Revolution. The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, built on the profits from the municipally owned gas works (originally located in the building which still stands next door), houses another exceptional collection of Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite art. While in Birmingham, the birthplace of Burne-Jones, we will visit Cathedral Church of St Philip, where he was baptized, and see the stained glass windows he designed and donated.

We will be staying for one night in Oxford, which has many rich associations with many of the Pre-Raphaelites. But first we visit Kelmscott Manor, the remarkable summer home of William Morris, and the scene of many Pre-Raphaelite gatherings. We will also visit Buscot Park, the home of Alexander Henderson, the first Lord Farringdon. Farringdon, a collector of Victorian painting, is best known for purchasing the entire Briar Rose series created by Burne-Jones and exhibited to great acclaim at Agnew’s in London in 1890. (The Delaware Art Museum’s Council Chamber is a revised version from this series.) The current Lord Farringdon has kindly allowed us to come on a day normally closed to the public and we will be taken around by the collection’s curator.

In Oxford we will see the Library in the Oxford Union Hall where members of the Pre-Raphaelite circle worked together to decorate the walls. We will also go to the Ashmolean Museum and Christ Church and have time to walk around and get a feel for this city which so shaped many of the artists.

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