Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Desperate Romantics by Franny Moyle

Dante Gabriel Rossetti,Lizzie Siddal,pre-raphaelite

Franny Moyle's new book, Desperate Romantics, catalogues the lives and loves of the Pre-Raphaelites, while occasionally touching on their art. The book, which serves as the inspiration for the upcoming BBC miniseries of the same name, sounds like it will be a delight for those looking to dwell on the shallower aspects of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

First, I will confess that the bohemian lifestyle of the Pre-Raphaelites has held a certain fascination for me ever since I first picked up Beth Russell's Traditional Needlepointand suddenly found myself entranced by the beauty of Morris and Rossetti's art and the sordid details of their personal lives. Whether for good or ill, the countless affairs, intrigues, love triangles and suicides that pepper the Pre-Raphaelite movement have undeniably added to their allure.

It still seems a shame that the book ignores the Pre-Raphaelites' art almost entirely, in favour of tabloid coverage of their exploits. There is so much more to the Pre-Raphaelite vision than sultry models and randy artists. William Morris himself was a fascinating man with beautiful ideas that are still pertinent today. The same is also true for the inspiring John Ruskin, who is sidelined as a mere deviant in Moyle's work. In her defence, however, I notice that Moyle is a television producer, which probably explains her conviction that sex is the best way to sell art. And perhaps she's right. It certainly worked for me. Today my interest in the Pre-Raphaelites goes far beyond their sordid personal lives, but in the beginning, their fascinating lives were instrumental in drawing me into their world.

For more information, read the Times review of Desperate Romantics


Hermes said...

I will try to read it but not talking about their art which was an expression of their lives seems ridiculous.

Sarah said...

totally OT, but is the woman in the picture eating the flowers? I've never seen that picture before, but it gave me a good laugh :o)

Hope you're doing well, Margaret, and let me know if you're ever down in my neck of the woods ;o)

Margaret said...

Hi Sarah! I'll definitely see you next time I'm in town. I've just been so busy with work lately that I haven't had much of a chance to do any traveling.

The girl is not eating the flowers--she's biting them rather suggestively. I'll leave it up to your imagination, but keep in mind that Rossetti was no prude, and his paintings tend to reflect his rather prurient interests!

wanderingjasmine said...

I almost bought this book a couple of weeks ago but something made me unsure about committing to it. The private lives of the artists fascinate me too, but only in relation to their art of course!

Thank you for your review, I think I will give it a go - at least I know I won't be disappointed. It's funny how your expectations of a book, all the imagery that you've already conjured up just from looking at the cover and reading the abstract, can be so evolved by the time you get to reading it and then so cruelly dashed by the actual content!

Thorsprincess said...

Gentle Daughter,
And I always thought that you cherished my needlepoint books because you shared my love for beautiful handiwork. Actually, I thought you would enjoy the racy stories and they would encourage love of history and art. My friend Colleen, university prof and writer, always said that she learned to read because she found that history and literature were really all about scandal and sex!

Stephanie Pina said...

I've been on the fence about this book. My gut instinct is that I don't want to read a sensational, tabloid like book about the Pre-Raphaelites. But, with the upcoming BBC Drama planned, I probably will read it. I hope for the best, but I am worried about the remark that apparently one of the producers made about it being like "Entourage with easels". Yikes.
I wish they had chosen a better font for the book cover. The Kelmscott font would have been a nice choice. Oh, by the way, the painting on the cover is Love's Shadow by Frederic Sandys. Not even a member of the PRB (although he was an associate, later). I know I'm probably pedantic, but I think they could have at least chosen a work by one of the original members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood for the cover.

Margaret said...

Whoops, thanks, Stephanie--I wasn't thinking at all! It is odd that they didn't choose a painting by a member of the original Brotherhood.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that a piece of art can be created in a vacuum. What is happening in a life is bound to influence an artist's work. However there has to be a balance.

Although everyone enjoys a good gos, if it gets uncomfortable to view, this film may put people off looking into the beauty of the works created. If they have got the balance right, maybe some people who otherwise wouldn't have bothered, will look at the work created. Here's hoping.