As a child, I had a Grandma Moses print hanging in my bedroom, and I remember being surprised that my teacher knew the artist. I realized there was art out there that lots of people knew and appreciated. It was a way of connecting with others.
After college, a friend who loves Howard Pyle’s The Mermaid brought me to the Delaware Art Museum for the first time. Fast forward a little bit, I’m a teacher at Wilmington Montessori School, and a parent suggested a field trip to DelArt. We had an amazing docent, and I enjoyed the trip so much that we did it again the next year. It lit a fire in me: How do I bring more of this into the classroom? I purchased a Lady Lilith poster, and I started talking to the kids in very simple terms about the Pre-Raphaelites: They didn’t think it was a good idea to be mass producing things; they believed everything in your home should have meaning and be beautiful. That aligns with Montessori values too.
I taught at Wilmington Montessori for 15 years, so that’s 15 field trips to DelArt, learning from the docents. As I continued to bring students here, I myself learned more and more. After my twins went off to college, I went to London. I visited the Pre-Raphaelite collection at the Birmingham Museum and the Red House (designed by William Morris). In 2019 I traveled to the Leighton House (home of Frederic Leighton) and was just wowed. Most recently I saw Leighton’s Flaming June at the Met, on loan from the Museo de Arte de Ponce.
Over time I’ve developed a passion and an eye for this. I took curator Sophie Lynford’s Pre-Raphaelite class, and I loved the stories she shared of the people behind the art. The paintings are what drew me in, but the stories of the Victorians who created them give it a fullness that I can relate to.
Sponsoring Lady Lilith for The Rossettis exhibition is a culmination of my love for the Pre-Raphaelites. I’m at a point in my life where I can do something to support this passion. Being able to carry on my parents’ generosity after they have passed on gives my life fullness. And this art really matters to me. It brings together my love of London and British culture, my own interests and learning, and my passion for teaching. I know that somewhere in each group of students who visit DelArt there’s a child like I once was, connecting with art for the first time. For a student, a museum visit is an entrée into appreciating art and culture, seeing the emotions an artist captures, or a political viewpoint, or a beautiful snapshot of our world.
I can’t wait for the exhibition this fall—it’s like waiting for my granddaughter to be born, waiting to see all of those Rossettis again, all in one place. The Rossettis is an exhibition that people will never forget.
Artwork: Mary Magdalene, 1877. Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882). Oil on canvas, 29 7/8 × 25 3/8 inches, frame: 42 × 37 3/4 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935. Photograph by Shannon Woodloe.