The Spring edition of 'Enchanted Living' magazine is devoted to the Pre-Raphaelites.
When, in 1848, the artists of the Victorian Pre-Raphaelite movement announced themselves to the world, it was against a backdrop of the most appalling state of public health, amid wave after wave of terrible epidemics and fatal diseases such as cholera, typhus, typhoid fever, and tuberculosis. These were horrors that carried off vast swaths of the population at a time with scant regard for status or class. Even the Queen's husband, the Prince Consort, fell victim to a fatal infection (probably Typhoid fever) in 1861, just at the time when the original Pre-Raphaelite artists and poets were reaching the zenith of their creative output.
Not much opportunity for social distancing in the squalid inner cities of Victorian England. It made matters worse.
Theirs was a spirit of irrepressible creativity and defiance that has an intriguing message for us today amid our own health crisis. Here in the UK, as in much of the world at present, we are being told to 'stay at home.' A great opportunity, in fact, albeit on a more modest scale, to work creatively on our own personal spaces; our homes and our gardens.
Special Pre-Raphaelite Edition
So, with good timing, the magazine Enchanted Living, has coincidentally for its Spring 2020 edition devoted itself entirely to The Pre-Raphaelite movement – and in particular, to Pre-Raphaelite relevance in the fields of design, creative living and aesthetics in the present era. If you follow this blog, you probably also follow those of a good few of its contributors, too, including in this edition pieces written by Stephanie Graham Pina and Kirsty Stonell Walker. There are ideas aplenty, along with stacks of evocative photos, artworks and articles on everything from home decor and gardening to beauty tips and fashion.
A quick glimpse inside ...
‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful,’ is the oft-quoted maxim of Arts and Crafts pioneer William Morris. It seems to be a guiding principal of the magazine. And, in my view, it really cannot be repeated often enough. In this edition especially, we find original ideas from the present combined with source material from the past to help us explore that statement in both a thoughtful and a practical way.
The Pre-Raphaelites and the later proponents of the Arts and Crafts movement rose above all the grime and murky detritus of the Industrial Revolution into which they were born. Against all the odds they explored an earlier age to their own, the Medieval and the Gothic, salvaged all that was good about it and brought it back to contribute to the creative spirit of their own times. And the world was all the richer for their endeavours.
For balance, we all need a little magic in our lives. Whether we realise it or not, it nourishes one half of ourselves, and should not be neglected no matter how harsh the other half might appear. The Pre-Raphaelites of the 19th century understood this. And rarely has their message been of such relevance as now.