I've made a very, very, very quick trip to San Francisco to see the Truth and Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Old Masters exhibition at the Legion of Honor Museum - a pretty magnificent (if somewhat pompous, for the 1920s) edifice in its own right, with some excellent paintings in its permanent collection. But I knew I'd kick myself if I didn't get to see this - so my thanks to Alice, above all, for understanding!
There were some obvious favorites - Millais's Mariana; Rossetti's Lady Lilith and Beata Beatrix and Veronica Veronese; Holman Hunt's Lady of Shalott; some Julia Margaret Cameron photographs; Spencer Stanhope's creepy Robins of Modern Times. The brilliance of the show is to put these paintings alongside the earlier painters who influence the Pre-Raphaelites: Sandro Botticelli - especially his amazing “Idealized Portrait of a Lady (Simonetta Vespucci);” Paolo Veronese; Jan van Eyck; and Hans Memling. It's not so much an x-influenced-y show in the sense of being able to trace clear borrowings (although there are some of these) - which cleverly turns it into an exhibition about PRB style, and line, and color, rather than subject matter.
It was full of surprises, to me: illuminated manuscripts (including one that belonged to Ruskin), and then an illuminated version of Rossetti's short story "Hand and Soul," by Francis Sangorski and George Sutcliffe - done between 1905-1911;
some paintings that I swear I've never seen (these included some watercolors, and Kate Bunce's St Cecilia (c. 1901).
Some well-known paintings were, interestingly, represented by small-scale copies - usually by the original artists - sometimes with assistance - but here is a real revelation: a small copy of Holman Hunt's Hireling Shepherd, with a black dog. Where did that come from? Or where did that go to??
Also - it was an exhibition where one could get really, really close to the canvases, and look closely at detail, and paint texture (the same was true in the main galleries - I was really struck by the thick rough paint in John Martin's The Assuaging of the Waters): here's some painted fabric from Evelyn de Morgan's Flora, which seems to be suffering from an overdose of the Botticellis.
If you can get to see this show, do!
Why, though, is San Francisco so chilly and grey??