“The Rossettis” Reunites Works by Iconic Family of Artists and Writers

Delaware Art Museum Is the Only U.S. Location for Major Pre-Raphaelite Exhibition

The Delaware Art Museum presents “The Rossettis,” a major international loan exhibition organized in partnership with Tate Britain, opening on Saturday, October 21, 2023, and running through Sunday, January 28, 2024. The Delaware Art Museum, which is home to the most comprehensive collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings outside of the United Kingdom, will be the only museum in the United States to host this exhibition after it closes in London.

Sophie Lynford, Annette Woolard-Provine Curator of the Bancroft Collection, says, “The Delaware Art Museum is a natural fit for the show’s American venue. We house the most significant holdings of Rossettis in the United States thanks to Samuel P. Bancroft, Jr., who assembled the collection at the turn of the twentieth century. While he acquired art by many Pre-Raphaelites, Bancroft was drawn most intensely to Rossetti and would be delighted that this show reunites works long separated.”

The exhibition features the art of the Rossettis, the family that includes Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, his wife, Elizabeth Siddal, and siblings, Christina, Maria, and William Michael Rossetti. The Pre-Raphaelites inspired generations of artists to blend realism with medieval revivalism, and the poets, writers, and painters of this prodigiously artistic family blended their passion for social justice with their commitment to reforming outdated academic artistic traditions.

Executive Director Molly Giordano says, “Shortly after the Museum was founded, we were given an incredible gift: Samuel Bancroft’s significant Pre-Raphaelite collection. Our holdings have since grown, and we’re home to critically important paintings and drawings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as well as rare works on paper by Elizabeth Siddal. Partnering with Tate Britain, and its extraordinary collection, makes this exhibition an unprecedented opportunity for enthusiasts of the Pre-Raphaelite movement to see so many superlative objects in one location.”

While Delaware audiences are intimately familiar with DelArt’s paintings by Rossetti, those works have never been contextualized alongside works from international public and private collections that this exhibition brings together. DelArt’s exhibition will exceed 150 objects—many beyond the paintings and drawings that made Rossetti famous. One highlight of the installation is a manuscript of “The Portrait,” a poem by Rossetti believed to have been exhumed from Elizabeth Siddal’s grave.

DelArt’s presentation of “The Rossettis” will be further enhanced by significant loans from the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library, Museums, and Press, as well as rare archival material by the Rossettis in the Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Pre-Raphaelite Manuscript Collection, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum.

For the first time, “The Rossettis” places Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s art within the larger context of the radical politics of his family, exiled to England due to their support for revolutionary Italian nationalism. Paintings, drawings, and watercolors by Dante Gabriel will be viewed alongside the drawings of Siddal, and the poetry and prose of Christina, Maria, and William Michael.

A major contribution of the exhibition is its examination of the relationship between Dante Gabriel and Siddal, who was a poet and artist in her own right. Her career was on the rise when she died at age 32 of a laudanum overdose following a stillbirth. Art historians have long situated Siddal’s output as derivative of her husband’s, but new research reveals that many of the themes they mutually explored were, in fact, initiated by her.

Lynford adds, “Siddal’s oeuvre is disappointingly slim due to her premature death. ‘The Rossettis’ assembles the largest display of her drawings in over three decades.”

The exhibition explores how the Rossettis led a progressive counterculture before, through, and beyond the Pre-Raphaelite years, drawing on the past to reinvent art, politics, and relationships for their fast-changing modern world. The public is still fascinated by myths of Dante Gabriel’s intense relationships with fellow Pre-Raphaelites William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, and his models Fanny Cornforth and Jane Morris. The exhibition will engage visitors both familiar with and new to the Pre-Raphaelites with fresh insights that address contemporary debates about romance, class, sex, and gender.

“The Rossettis” will be the final show of a larger DelArt initiative called, “Year of Pre-Raphaelites,” which began in late 2022 with the special loan exhibition, “A Marriage of Arts and Crafts: Evelyn and William De Morgan.” A “Pre-Raphaelite Weekend,” scheduled November 9–12, 2023, and co-hosted by the Pre-Raphaelite Society, based in the U.K., will allow visitors from near and far to share in the celebrations with behind-the-scenes experiences, musical performances, tours, high tea, and a Pre-Raphaelite Promenade.

For more information about the exhibition, visit our website.

This exhibition was organized by the Delaware Art Museum in partnership with Tate Britain and is made possible through support from the Nathan Clark Foundation, the Amy P. Goldman Foundation, the Delaware Art Museum Council, and the Dr. Lee MacCormick Edwards Charitable Foundation. This exhibition is supported, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The Division promotes Delaware arts events on www.DelawareScene.com.

About the Delaware Art Museum

For over 100 years, the Museum has served as a primary arts and cultural institution in Delaware. It is alive with experiences, discoveries, and activities to connect people with art and with each other. Originally created in 1912 to honor the renowned illustrator and Wilmington-native, Howard Pyle, the Museum’s collection has grown to over 12,000 works of art in our building and sculpture garden. Also recognized for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the most comprehensive Pre-Raphaelite collection on display outside of the United Kingdom, and a growing collection of significant contemporary art.

Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the Delaware Art Museum is implementing a comprehensive approach to community and civic engagement. This exciting new strategic direction requires that we increase our value and relevance to all audiences. Visit delart.org for the latest exhibitions, programs, and performances or connect with us via social media.

Top: La Ghirlandata (detail), 1873, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Oil on canvas. Guildhall Art Gallery. Photo credit: City of London Corporation.