Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tennyson Anyone?

"Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And around the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott."

 In 2009, in celebration of the bicentennial of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's birth, Britain's WAG Screen group created several short films about one of Tennyson's most beloved ballads, The Lady of Shalott. One of these films focussed on a visual retelling of the story, and when the filmmakers sought imagery from which to draw inspiration, they naturally turned to the Pre-Raphaelite painters who had previously illustrated the work.  Of the many treatments of Tennyson's lengthy poem, it was John William Waterhouse's iconic image from 1888 which influenced their depiction the most. 

"The mirror crack'd from side to side;
'The curse is come upon me,' cried
The Lady of Shalott."

"She loosed the chain, and down she lay"

Actress Victoria Rigby as Elaine of Astolat, The Lady of Shalott

"Lying, robed in snowy white"

During Queen Victoria's reign (1837-1901), England enjoyed significant growth and prosperity.  This led to a Nationalistic pride, and British subjects found themselves more deeply interested in their own history and culture.  Tennyson's works, such as the Idylls of the King and the related Lady of Shalott, centered on the romantic British mythos of King Arthur and his Court¹, and this was exactly for which the public was clamoring.  The popularity of his writing earned Tennyson the appointment of Poet Laureate in 1850, from which position he continued to promulgate the Victorian ideals of courtly love and honor through parallels between contemporary society and Britain's past, albeit legendary, glory.

Filmmakers and costumers also drew inspiration from Waterhouse's 1915 painting,
 "I am Half-Sick of Shadows," Said the Lady of Shalott.

Actor Ben Poole as Alfred, Lord Tennyson, giving a reading of The Lady of Shalott in another of
WAG Screen's short films.

Pauline Loven created the costumes for Tennyson Bicentennial  films.  Her costuming company, The Orchard House Wardrobe, is now the official wardrobe department for Crow's Eye Productions, the professional filming company which recorded the scenes for WAG Screen in Lincolnshire.  To learn more about Ms. Loven, please visit her blog, Period Wardrobe.

To order the DVD ($22.50 USD + S/H), please visit the WAG Store.  Currently, 50% of sales are going to help the family of American blogger Stephanie PiƱa, who is facing mounting medical bills after her husband suffered serious injury in a motorcycle accident.  Visit the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood blog for more information.

The entire ballad by Loreena McKennitt can be purchased on iTunes.

¹ Tennyson based his writings on Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur, a compilation of British and French legends.


Albert. S said...

What a wonderful idea. The details on the props look fantastic, it's like almost seeing the real thing come alive. Ruskin would have been proud..:) Thanks for post.

Sandra Heading said...

Wow , I love this dude could he paint or what !!! Im going to attemp one of his soon I need to sink my teeth into a Master study ...havent done any in Oils of lately ... Love your blog really wonderful