Pre-Raphaelites: Drawings & Watercolours | In the Company of Morris

Art-Gallery-of-Ballarat-Pre-Raphaelites-In-the-Company-of-MorrisWorks never before seen in Australia will go on display next week at the Art Gallery of Ballarat from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford in Pre-Raphaelites: Drawings & watercolours.

In a unique double feature, In the Company of Morris is an exhibition of historical and contemporary Australian artworks drawing from the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites. Both exhibitions open on Saturday 20 May to the surprise and delight of art lovers.

The Pre-Raphaelites exhibition is a first for Australia as the drawings and watercolours featured haven’t been seen widely, even at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. As they are works on paper, they can only be displayed for very short periods of time. It’s an incredible opportunity for visitors to the Art Gallery of Ballarat to see these rare and fragile works.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood are amongst the best-loved artists of the 19th century. They looked back to the simplicity and directness of Mediaeval and Renaissance art with naturalistic poses and the use of brilliant colour, painting with originality and authenticity. They celebrated their friends and heroes and took inspiration from the art and poetry about which they were passionate.

These works offer an intimate and rare look into the world of the Pre-Raphaelite artists, models and friends. It includes works of extraordinary beauty, from the portraits they made of each other, studies for paintings and commissions, to subjects taken from history, literature and landscape.

The group had a common interest in a return to nature in art. They were the first artists who took canvases out into nature and painted. Back in this was mid-19th century this was regarded as morally shocking and objectionable.

Also in this exhibition, are works by Elizabeth Siddal, who was Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s primary muse, who he later married. A talented artist on her on right and was paid a salary by John Ruskin, who was one of the group’s inspirations and patrons, which indicates how highly regarded her work was at the time.

This outstanding international exhibition draws from the extraordinary collections of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford to tell the story of the artists, their lives and loves, bringing to life the world of John Ruskin, William and Jane Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, John Everett Millais, Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Lizzie Siddal.

In the Company of Morris showcases an exhibition of historical and contemporary Australian artworks demonstrating the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites and in particular William Morris.

William Morris, the Pre-Raphaelite polymath, visionary thinker, designer, writer, artist, poet, environmental crusader and social activist, was one of the most important and inspiring figures of the 19th century.

He believed in the rights of every individual to improve the world and that good design should be available for all as summed up in his statement: “I do not want art for a few any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.”

At the Art Gallery of Ballarat the influence of William Morris and his statement “What business do we have with art at all unless we can share it” is reflected in the Gallery’s founding principle “not for self but for all” and in works by historical and contemporary artists in the Gallery’s Collection.

In the Company of Morris features work by artists such as Louis Abrahams, Janet Beckhouse, Glenn Barkley, George Baxter, Stephen Bird, Frederick Cartwright, Dagmar Cyrulla, Emma Davies, Robert Dowling, HH Floate, Emily Floyd, Cathy Franzi, Web Gilbert, Lucy Hardie, Fiona Hiscock, Henry James Johnstone, Louiseann King, Deborah Klein, Emma Van Leest, Lionel Lindsay, Norman Lindsay, Percy Lindsay, Ruby Lindsay, Marguerite Mahood, ex de medici, Ernest Moffitt, Alice J Muskett, Julie Nash, Klytie Pate, Ana Petidis, Elizabeth Pulie, Charles Douglas Richardson, Kate Rohde, Gwen Scott, Bernhard Smith, William Strutt, Philippa Taylor, Kati Thamo, Tiffany Titshall, Christian Waller, Napier Waller, Carole Wilson, Thomas Woolner, Jemima Wyman and Paul Yore.

Featured artists in the exhibition include:

Deborah Klein’s practice encompasses painting, drawing, printmaking, and book art. She has held regular solo exhibitions and participated in group exhibitions in Australia and internationally and has been the recipient of many awards.

Melbourne-born textile artist Paul Yore is one of Australia’s most thought-provoking multidisciplinary artists, drawing on the traditions of classical Greek art, decorative Flemish and French tapestries, trashy pop-culture, gay porn, cartoons, psychedelia, and the frenzied excesses of rococo style.

Kate Rodhe is known for working mainly with resin to create intensely colourful jewellery and sculptural objects. She held several solo exhibitions, and her work is held in several collections nationally. Having grown up in the Dandenong Ranges, Rohde is inspired by both a love of natural history and the history of the decorative arts across the centuries.

The practice of Melbourne-based ceramic artist Fiona Hiscock follows in the tradition of William Morris, creating utilitarian ceramics that draw decorative inspiration from nature. Her decoration is inspired by botanical illustration, and she makes detailed watercolours of plant specimens before transposing the images onto bone-dry, hand-built, coiled vessels.

Born in Germany, Dagmar Cyrulla arrived in Australia as a child. She has a Master of Fine Art from Monash University and has been a multiple time Moran Prize, Archibald Prize, and Portia Geach portrait prize finalist. Cyrulla paints what she is emotionally connected to – the people in her life, relationships and the psychology that underpins her connectedness to others. Her psychologically charged portraits of women convey a deep sense of intimacy with the subject.

Emily Floyd is inspired by typography and graphic design and utilises text as both a political and design element in her sculptural installations as well as in her printmaking. Similar to William Morris Emily Floyd engages with utopian ideals, alternative education, community activism, and leftist politics which shaped through engagement with archives and art and design traditions

Elizabeth Pulie’s practice is based around her interest in traditional crafts and theories into the contemporaneity and commodification of art – she is represented in the exhibition with a work informed largely by Owen Jones’ The Grammar of Ornament, which was originally published in 1856. These designs stand in stark contrast to the more minimal aesthetic found in homes today and her exploration of this design calls into question these designs as high art or craft

Pre-Raphaelites: Drawings & Watercolours | In the Company of Morris
Art Gallery of Ballarat, Lydiard Street, Ballarat
Exhibition: 20 May – 6 August 2023
Entry fees apply

For more information, visit: for details.

Images: Henry Wallis, Mary Ellen Meredith, 1858, graphite on paper. Ashmolean Museum – purchased (Bouch Fund) with the assistance of The Art Fund, the Friends of the Ashmolean, Michael Barclay, and others, 2003 | Elizabeth Pulie, Italian, 1994, acrylic on canvas. © Elizabeth Pulie. Collection of the Art Gallery of Ballarat – purchased with funds from the Colin Hicks Caldwell Bequest, 2019