press release

The Delaware Art Museum’s collection of English Pre-Raphaelite art is currently on an international tour through 2007.

In 1848 a group of seven young British artists and writers gathered together to pioneer a new movement in contemporary art-a move away from the established London art institutions of the day. The group consisted of artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and James Collins; sculptor Thomas Woolner; and writers William Michael Rossetti (brother of Dante Gabriel) and Frederick George Stephens.

Drawing influence from art created before the time of the Renaissance artist Raphael, they intended to paint directly from nature in an honest manner that rejected the painterly brushwork and contrived compositions in vogue at the Royal Academy. Bright, jewel-like color and close attention to detail, modes typical of early Italian art, featured prominently in their work.

The founding members of this "Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood" were very much concerned with the modern world in which they lived, specifically with the social problems brought about by the Industrial Revolution and the rapid urban growth that ensued. Their choice of subjects reflects these concerns and often showed a particular compassion for the "fallen woman," or prostitute.

The young painters gained the support of eminent art critic John Ruskin, who staunchly defended their endeavors in two landmark letters published in the London Times. Although the official Brotherhood lasted only a few years, its work and objectives influenced a second generation of English painters and artisans, including Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris, which persisted through the early twentieth century.

In 1880, upon viewing a Pre-Raphaelite painting for the first time, Wilmington textile-mill owner Samuel Bancroft, Jr., described himself as "shocked with delight." Bancroft's decision to collect Pre-Raphaelite art was highly unusual, not only within the local community but throughout the country. Born to a Quaker family with strong British connections, Bancroft was encouraged in his new passion by his English cousin, Alfred Darbyshire, and advised by the Pre-Raphaelite associate and art dealer Charles Fairfax Murray.

Bancroft purchased his first pre-Raphaelite work of art, Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Water Willow, in 1890. He continued to add to his holdings, building relationships with living members and descendants of the original Brotherhood including Jane and Jenny Morris, Winifred Sandys, and Phillip Burne-Jones. As he became more sophisticated in his taste, he sought out archival documents in addition to artwork.

Bancroft spent the last thirty-five years of his life acquiring the collection, and by the time of his death in 1915 he had assembled one of the most significant collections of nineteenth-century British art outside of the United Kingdom. Today the collection, bequeathed by Bancroft's family to the Delaware Art Museum in 1935, is one of only a handful in the United States to focus on art of the period.


Waking Dreams, the traveling exhibition of the Museum’s Bancroft Collection of Pre-Raphaelite art is attracting large audiences and lots of press coverage at every venue. After opening at the Portland (Oregon) Museum of Art, the collection traveled to England where it was presented at the Nottingham Castle Museum. This was the first time the Bancroft collection was seen in its entirety by British audiences and the response was impressive. Approximately 28,000 people visited the exhibition during the three-month run, all of the talks and special programs were sold out and 400 catalogs were purchased. During the run of the exhibition it was calculated that “one customer was served in the café every minute!” The exhibition was touted in the British press, including a feature in the arts section of The Guardian (London).

In October the collection returned to the United States, opening at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas. The reception in Texas has also been overwhelming. Frederick Sandys’ Mary Magdalene was featured in an oversize advertisement in the San Antonio airport. The exhibition was reviewed in numerous local and state magazines including Texas Highways, San Antonio Woman and a front cover feature on the Texas Museum Magazine. Thanksgiving weekend was a complete sell out at the McNay with record crowds and group tours keeping their docents hopping!

Scheduled venues:

Portland Art Museum March 19 – May 29, 2005 Portland, Oregon

Nottingham Castle June 25 – September 4, 2005 Nottingham, England

McNay Art Museum October 1, 2005 – January 1, 2006 San Antonio, Texas

John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art January 28 – April 2, 2006 Sarasota, FL

Philbrook Museum of Art April 22 – July 2, 2006 Tulsa, OK

Frick Art and Historical Center July 29 – October 8, 2006 Pittsburgh, PA

Cincinnati Art Museum October 28 – January 7, 2007 Cincinnati, Ohio

Saint Louis Art Museum February 18 - April 29, 2007 Saint Louis, MO

San Diego Museum of Art May 19 - July 29, 2007 San Diego, CA

Waking Dreams
The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites from the Delaware Art Museum
The Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Pre-Raphaelite Collection

mit Edward Burne-Jones, James Collins, William Holman Hunt, Robert Wallace Martin, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti , Frederick George Stephen, Marie Spartali Stillman, Thomas Woolner ...