We’re huge fans of the Tate Britain: the gallery stands out for its innovative and inspirational exhibitions that draw millions of visitors each year. For this reason, we were incredibly proud to be asked by Tate to organise an Etsy craft fair and workshop within the gallery for their upcoming Late at Tate Britain, in association with their latest exhibition, Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde. We asked the Tate to share some of their favourite contemporary Etsy pieces inspired by the exhibition, and the results are astounding. Here’s Kirstie Beaven from Tate.
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood may seem familiar now (who hasn’t seen a William Morris print design or a red-headed maiden on a card, teatowel or jigsaw puzzle?), but when they first set out in the mid-19th century they were actually startlingly new, breaking all the rules. Led by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, and joined by pioneers like William Morris, this collection of radical young artists went on to influence the worlds of art, craft and design and has given all us craft-lovers, designers and makers something to be grateful for. The Pre-Raphaelites would have loved the ethos of Etsy, and in some ways you could argue everything here bears some relationship to them, but we’ve done our best to pick a few lovely Pre-Raphaelite inspired items.
William Morris founded his artist-run collective in 1861, more than 150 years ago. Behind all the stories of blighted love triangles, drug addiction and romantic intrigues (as well as apparently setting up a private zoo in central London), the PRB were totally committed to the idea that making has the potential to change society. Not only did they try to break down the divisions between the fine and applied arts, they also rebelled against the increasingly industrialised society around them by championing the handmade and craftsman-produced.
Though we often think of poor Lizzie Siddal dying in her cold bath while she modelled for Millais’ Ophelia, the Pre-Raphaelites actually had a progressive attitude to women. Despite being a “brotherhood,” they gave space to women to not just appear in works of art as models, but to be artists themselves, from poet Christina Rossetti, to photographer Julia Margaret Cameron or May Morris, who was director of the embroidery section of her father William’s workshop, designing, making and promoting embroidery as an art form in its own right.
The new exhibition at Tate Britain in London focuses on the ambition and scope of their revolutionary ideas about art, design and society, as well as, of course, the undeniable beauty of what they produced. Bringing together the iconic Pre-Raphaelite paintings with their sculptures, photographs, drawings, embroideries, stained glass and furniture, gives us a great chance to see just how the PRB are still influencing us all today.
Sign up for a chance to win 2 tickets to the Pre-Raphaelites exhibition at Tate Britain! And if you get two friends to sign up, you’ll have a chance to win an additional prize.
For more on Etsy and the Tate, be sure to check out the “Makers on Makers” series on the Tate Blog, where Etsy sellers share their responses to the show.