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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Lloyd Webber's good taste revealed

By Andrew Walker
BBC News Profiles Unit

Rossetti's A Vision of Fiammetta
Rosetti's Fiammetta is a highlight of the exhibition
Andrew Lloyd Webber's Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at London's Royal Academy opens on Saturday.

The show proves to be an important and timely insight into a Victorian artistic phenomenon.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood burst upon the British artistic scene in the mid-19th Century, creating an enticing blend of Christian spirituality and veiled eroticism which, though it has often gone in and out of popular favour, still captivates today.

Lord Lloyd-Webber has long been a collector of Pre-Raphaelite works, and this exhibition presents a rounded - and riveting - view of this particular genre.

Of particular significance are drawings and portraits by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, attesting to his mastery of pencil, chalk, watercolour and oil. A late work, A Vision of Fiammetta, is richly-coloured and exudes an enticing sensuality.

John Edward Brett's Val D'Aosta
John Edward Brett painted the highly-detailed Val D'Aosta
There are also numerous works by Sir Edward Burne-Jones and William Holman Hunt, whose Morning Prayer crystallises the moral piety central to the Pre-Raphaelite vision.

Sir Samuel Fildes' The Village Wedding is theatrical, opulent and quietly humorous, as is Marcus Stone's The Railway Station, and John Edward Brett's landscape The Val D'Aosta is a mature and crafted work.

But this exhibition is not just about the Pre-Raphaelites: among other thrills are Canaletto's highly-detailed vision of Old Horse Guards, a Picasso and my personal favourite, a wonderful Stanley Spencer self-portrait.

Whatever else may be said of him, Andrew Lloyd Webber has a superb taste in paintings and I cannot recommend this thoughtfully-presented exhibition highly enough.

Pre-Raphaelite and Other Masters: The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection, is at the Royal Academy, Piccadilly, London, from 20 September to 16 December.


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