The Poetry of Drawing: Pre-Raphaelite Designs, Studies and Watercolours

Created by Amelia Yeates

24 September 2010

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), Study of Jane Morris for ‘Mnemosyne’, 1876, Pastel on paper. Private collection. Copy right: Christie’s.Gas Hall, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 29 January – 15 May 2011

This major exhibition is the largest survey of Pre-Raphaelite drawings and watercolours ever staged. It displays works from Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery’s world-class collections alongside key loans from public and private lenders, including important drawings by D.G. Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and Edward Burne-Jones that have never previously been exhibited.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of radical young artists who banded together in London in 1848, revolutionised British art. This exhibition explores the vital role played by drawing and design in the work of the Brotherhood, their associates and followers. It examines for the first time the full variety of Pre-Raphaelite drawing and watercolour practices: the training of artists, the development of Pre-Raphaelite theories of naturalism, the Brotherhood’s radical promotion of new, ‘intense’ subjects for painting and illustration, and their use of watercolour as a medium for subject painting. The exhibition includes watercolours as well as works in pen and ink and pencil, and paintings, stained glass, textiles and ceramics alongside their original designs. Through the portraits and caricatures the artists made of one another and often exchanged as gifts, the drawings also provide an insight into the Pre-Raphaelites’ relationships with their fellow artists, friends and lovers.

The Poetry of Drawing includes works by all the leading figures of the movement, including the original Brotherhood, their mentor John Ruskin, Elizabeth Siddal, and the ‘second generation’ of Pre-Raphaelites including Edward Burne-Jones, Frederick Sandys and Simeon Solomon. It also displays work by later artists influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, such as Aubrey Beardsley. There will be a rare chance to compare textiles, stained glass and ceramics by designers such as William Morris, William de Morgan and Florence Camm with their original working drawings, and the opportunity to see watercolours and drawings never exhibited before, including examples by Rossetti, Arthur Hughes and Burne-Jones.

While drawing is often regarded as being secondary to painting, this exhibition reveals its central importance in both the theory and practice of Pre-Raphaelite art.

Exhibition organised by Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery

Supported by:

The City of Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery Development Trust

The Limoges Trust

The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

The William A. Cadbury Charitable Trust


Adults  £6.00

Senior citizens  £5.00

Income support/unwaged, Children aged 5 – 16 years  £2.00

Family (2 adults & 2 children) £12.00

The Poetry of Drawing is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated book, Pre-Raphaelite Drawing, written by the exhibition’s curator Colin Cruise and published by Thames and Hudson.

Exhibition to tour to Australia

Following its showing in Birmingham the exhibition will tour to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, from 17 June – 4 September 2011.