12/31/10

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Raven: Angel Footfalls


Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Date: c. 1848
Technique: Pen and brown ink on light-brown paper, 9 x 8 1/2 in.

The remarkable set of drawings illustrates Poe's The Raven. The series represents a defining moment in DGR's artistic life, both in literature and in art. There are four known illustrations by DGR of Poe's famous poem: an early (ca. 1846) chiaroscuro drawing, plus three later pieces (all ca. 1848) in a markedly different style: a pen and wash drawing on light-brown paper, another pen and wash (on light blue paper), and a pen and pencil drawing. All three of the later drawings are linear and sharply articulated, and they clearly relate to the same stylistic urgencies that led DGR to help in the formation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

That Poe should have been the occasion for this artistic change is both interesting and somewhat remarkable, for Poe is a key figure in the development of DGR's literary style as well. The second-order romanticism developed in Poe's imaginative writings, and explicated in essays like “The Poetic Principle” and “The Philosophy of Composition”, is recapitulated in DGR's work, where the key is primarily Dantean rather than (as in Poe) Shelleyan/Byronic.

DGR also made illustrations for two other Poe works, The Sleeper and Ulalume.

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