The name “Rossetti” is often associated with paintings filled with women with dreamy gazes, flowing red hair, and sumptuous accessories. These works were produced by British artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882). Yet Gabriel, as he was known, was only one member of a larger Rossetti family whose contributions to 19th-century art and literature were vast.
Organized in partnership with Tate Britain, the blockbuster exhibition The Rossettis is now on view at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington. The show places Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s art and writing alongside that of his extraordinarily creative family. He had three siblings: Maria (1827–1876), William (1829–1919), and Christina (1830–1894). Their parents, of Italian heritage, were scholars and educators who encouraged the children to embrace their artistic voices. Each sibling became accomplished professionally. Christina, in particular, was internationally recognized for her poetry.
Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (1829–1862) entered the Rossettis’ lives when the siblings were in their early 20s. Working first as a model, she later pursued a career as an artist and poet. She and Dante Gabriel shared a studio where ideas flowed between them. The two eventually married in 1860, shortly before Elizabeth’s premature death. Her artistic innovations would inspire Gabriel for the rest of his life.
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 engages visitors both familiar with and new to the Pre-Raphaelites with fresh insights addressing contemporary debates about romance, class, sex, and gender.
Taken together, the art and writing of the Rossetti siblings and Elizabeth Siddal span a half-century. The Rossettis is the first time the work of all five has been exhibited together.
The Rossettis is on view at the Delaware Art Museum through January 28, 2024.
For more information, visit delart.org.