Lady Lever Art Gallery - A Rare Beauty on Our Doorstep
|Author: Marion Canfield-Evans||Published: 24th October 2011 10:21|
In Port Sunlight, the Lady Lever Art Gallery holds some of the most interesting and famous original paintings in the world.
The stories behind some of them are also intriguing. On a recent visit, some friends and I were amazed to realise that we had spent nearly two hours of fascination there.
Several of the paintings are by the 'Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood', begun by a trio of rather wild young men who wanted reality brought back into the world of painting:
Holman Hunt's 'May Morning'
Many will know of Holman Hunt's painting of Christ holding a lantern, knocking at the door to be let in. Although that's not in the Lady Lever, others of his are. 'May Morning' is a delightfully happy picture of young choristers, just let out from church and tumbling joyously into a bright Spring day. In contrast, his painting of a goat standing miserably in a bleak landscape, having been sent out, in ancient Judaic custom, to die in the wilderness, taking all their sins with it: 'The Scapegoat', an image, perhaps, of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.
John Millais Everett has a lighter touch, showing people at a picnic. He married the woman whom their patron, John Ruskin, had thrown out in shock when seeing his new wife unclothed!
A section of Rosetti's 'The Blessed Damozel'
Probably the most famous of the three was Dante Gabriel Rosetti, whose penchant for women with pale skin and abundant auburn hair, led him to marry his model, Lizzie Siddle, with whom he lived in squalor. When she died young, he was devastated. Passionately, he threw all the poems he had written into the grave with her, only to have them dug up again later.
He sought out models resembling her. One, 'The Blessed Damozel' is in the Gallery, depicting Rosetti lying on the ground whilst 'Lizzie' looks down on him over the Bar of Heaven: a striking image, her hair being gloriously portrayed.
Other such paintings by an expanding 'Brotherhood' appear along with a variety of other artists.
We were encouraged to try on hats!
There's fun, too. In an exhibition of Ladies' Accessories, we were encouraged to try on period hats. The shoes in this exhibition needed only red soles to be mistaken for Laboutins!
Children's workshops are also organised - details are available from the Gallery.
Those with Welsh connections should ask to be shown the painting 'Salem', protected from light, being a watercolour. The old lady in a splendid paisley shawl is said to be coming late into 'chapel' to show off her shawl. The myth is that you can see the devil of pride in the folds of the garment.
The Gallery attendants are most welcoming, and can provide more help and detail. A small restaurant offers both snacks and main meals, giving visitors a chance to partake of refreshments during their visit. The shop is a delight, offering a range of beautiful purchases based on exhibits from museums across the country, including jewellery.
I strongly recommend a visit to the Gallery - it is a place we are most fortunate to have so nearby.
Lady Lever Art Gallery
Port Sunlight Village
Tel: 0151 478 4136
Open Daily, 10am - 5pm. Entrance FREE.