For the first time, two of the most iconic Pre-Raphaelite paintings will leave the UK together for an exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia. Millais’ Ophelia and Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott will travel to Canberra this December as part of the NGA’s bumper exhibition, Love & Desire: Pre-Raphaelite Masterpieces from the Tate. Neither painting has been seen in Australia before.

John Everett Millais’ Ophelia, 1851-2. Oil paint on canvas. Tate collection presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894 © Tate

A survey of the 1848 movement established by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the exhibition features 40 of the Tate’s most iconic works alongside an additional 40 loans from other British and Australian collections.

John William Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott, 1888. Oil on canvas. Tate © Tate

Taking up the purist values of pre-Renaissance art, the Pre-Raphaelites practised a form of super-realism achieved through painstaking attention to detail. Like the impressionists, they tended to eschew the studio, preferring to paint outdoors to take advantage of natural light. Drawing inspiration from a bevy of literary sources, their paintings tend to be dense with symbolic meaning as well as bright colour.

“Tate and the National Gallery of Australia have a long and affectionate relationship – and a shared purpose to make art both accessible and relevant to diverse and growing audiences,” said Maria Balshaw, Director of the Tate. “It is with great anticipation that we see these much-loved masterpieces from Tate Britain travel to Canberra to be enjoyed by a new generation of visitors in another part of the world.’”


Love & Desire: Pre-Raphaelite Masterpieces from the Tate is at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra from December 14 – April 28, 2019

Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine