Celebrating Pre-Raphaelite Painting

Monday 5th February 2024

This year marks 150 years since the arrival at Marlborough of the first of the Chapel paintings by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope. It was to help us celebrate this special anniversary that we welcomed Sarah Hardy to speak to our History of Art pupils last Wednesday evening. Sarah is Head of Cannon Hall Museum in Yorkshire, the ancestral seat of the Stanhope family, and Director of the De Morgan Foundation, the body that promotes the study of Stanhope’s niece, Evelyn De Morgan, the leading female painter of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

The focus of the talk was a painting called The Garden of Opportunity, a sophisticated allegory concerning Folly and Wisdom and the choice they represent at the outset of adult life. Sarah discussed the picture’s symbolism and metaphors before exploring its contemporary contexts that still resonate today, such as fears over industrialisation, global economics, mental health, gender, and social anxiety.

It was a fascinating, lucid, and far-reaching talk that showed the continued relevance of studying the art of the past for what it can tell us about our concerns today. We are all grateful to Sarah for so generously sharing her erudition and expertise with us, and for making it so accessible.

Dr Simon McKeown
Head of History of Art

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