1/25/11

Philip Burne-Jones, The Vampire


Location unknown

Date: 1897
Technique: Unknown

Edward Burne-Jones’ son, Philip Burne-Jones, was also a painter, but his only well known painting is “The Vampire”, a portrait of a femme fatale vampire leaning over her male victim. The model for Philip’s vampire was Mrs. Patrick Campbell, an actress who in 1893. played the lead in “The Second Mrs. Tanqueray”, captured the public eye, and became famous for her beauty and talent. Philip dated her for a while, showered her with expensive presents, and painted her several times. But for the vampire portrait he worked from memory after she broke his heart by dumping him for a leading man and then a series of other lovers. In 1897, he displayed the painting at the annual summer exhibition of the New Gallery, a major show that included works by Sargent as well as Philip’s father. Alongside the painting, Philip included a poem “The Vampire” by his cousin, Rudyard Kipling, that described the foolishness of a man allowing himself to be destroyed by a heartless woman. This exhibition was held only a few months before Stoker’s Dracula was first in print.

Philip’s painting received good reviews in London, but bad reviews later, after a New York showing. Some reporters also recognized his model, and speculation on the circumstances that led to her depiction as a vampire became the focus of gossip. During her American tour, which coincided with the American exhibition of “The Vampire”, Mrs. Campbell’s agent played up her connection to the painting. Philip, his painting, and Mrs. Campbell all came together in Chicago and the press had a field day with the story. In 1907, Porter Emerson Browne was commissioned by the actor Robert Hilliard to write a play based on the painting, which was called ”A Fool There Was”. Katherine Kaelred played the vampire and the play was carefully constructed so that it ended with a tableau that echoed the painting. The play was a popular success and influenced the burgeoning American movie industry. William Fox bought the rights to the play and created a film version, which stared Theda Bara. This role as a heartless femme fatale, which Bara continued to play in over 40 films, earned her the nickname ”the vamp”.

Rudyard Kipling was allegedly inspired to write his poem ''The Vampire'' after viewing the painting.

A fool there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you or I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair,
(We called her the woman who did not care),
But the fool he called her his lady fair--
(Even as you or I!)

Oh, the years we waste and the tears we waste,
And the work of our head and hand
Belong to the woman who did not know
(And now we know that she never could know)
And did not understand!

A fool there was and his goods he spent,
(Even as you or I!)
Honour and faith and a sure intent
(And it wasn't the least what the lady meant),
But a fool must follow his natural bent
(Even as you or I!)

Oh, the toil we lost and the spoil we lost
And the excellent things we planned
Belong to the woman who didn't know why
(And now we know that she never knew why)
And did not understand!

The fool was stripped to his foolish hide,
(Even as you or I!)
Which she might have seen when she threw him aside--
(But it isn't on record the lady tried)
So some of him lived but the most of him died--
(Even as you or I!)

``And it isn't the shame and it isn't the blame
That stings like a white-hot brand--
It's coming to know that she never knew why
(Seeing, at last, she could never know why)
And never could understand!''

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