The young and audacious artists who called themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood revolutionized the British art establishment of the nineteenth century with their medievalist aesthetic.

Featuring more than 120 drawings, this exhibition illustrates how John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and their fellow Pre-Raphaelites strove to uproot the teachings of the Royal Academy, while Frederic Leighton, Edward Poynter and others championed them.

Visitors will encounter all the major artists, movements and pictorial themes that make up the captivating art world of Victorian England and discover the renewed uses and profound appreciation for the art of drawing at this time. Witness how a single Canadian collector amassed a group of works – exceptional in North America for its breadth – that paints an artistic and social overview of the Victorian age. Don’t miss your chance to see the Lanigan collection at the National Gallery of Canada.

Opening 9 October 2015, Beauty’s Awakening: Drawings by the Pre-Raphaelites and Their Contemporaries from the Lanigan Collection will be on view in the Prints, Drawings & Photography Galleries until 3 January 2016. Entry to the exhibition is included with general admission. Free for members.

Frederick Sandys, King Pelles’ Daughter Bearing the Vessel of the Sanc Graal, 1861. Pen and black ink on wove paper, 32.2 × 23.5 cm. Lanigan Collection, Saskatoon. Promised gift to the National Gallery of Canada. Photo © NGC

About the Exhibition

Named after Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901, the Victorian era was a fascinating period of change, full of contrasts and contradictions, brought about by rapid developments in nearly every sphere. As an epoch of great prosperity that afforded British artists many creative outlets, it was a time of artistic exploration for the Pre-Raphaelites and their contemporaries in which drawing played a pre-eminent role.

Assembled by Dennis T. Lanigan in Saskatoon over of a period of more than thirty years, the Lanigan Collection of British drawings from the Victorian age brings to light the revitalization of this medium in nineteenth-century England. Like the 1899 stage performance Beauty’s Awakening, which tells of Knight Trueheart’s quest to find and awaken “the Spirit of all things beautiful,” this exhibition recounts Victorian artists’ pursuit of a new form of beauty rooted in the past. It also pays homage to a collector’s own quest and celebrates his previous and promised gifts to the National Gallery of Canada.

The origins of the National Gallery of Canada are interwoven with the British art world of the late Victorian era. It was Canada’s Governor General the Marquess of Lorne and his wife Princess Louise – Queen Victoria’s daughter – who launched the establishment of a national art museum in 1880 and endowed it with its first European works by petitioning their artist-friends in Britain to donate paintings to Canada. Frederic Leighton and John Everett Millais, both well represented in the Lanigan Collection, were the first to respond. This tradition of gifting British art from the Victorian period continues with the transformative donation, presented in this exhibition, of over one hundred sheets from the Lanigan Collection.


Spotlight Talk
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10 October at 2 pm
Join a 10-minute talk on a work in the exhibition. Free with admission to the exhibition. In English. Meet in the exhibition space.

Group Tours for Adults
Monday 12 October 2015 to Sunday 3 January 2016
Explore the Beauty’s Awakening exhibition on a guided group tour. Groups must include a minimum of 10 people. Cost: $7 + Gallery admission. Registration required. Please call 613-990-4888 or email

Kathleen M. Fenwick Annual Memorial Lecture
The Daydream of Painting: Drawing in Victorian England
Christopher Newall

Thursday 29 October from 6 to 7 pm
In English with bilingual question period. Meet in the Lecture Hall.

Ticket required: $8 (adults), $7 (seniors and students), and $6 (members). Purchase tickets at the Gallery’s box office in person, or by phone at 613-998-8888 or 1-888-541-8888.

Leading Victorian art expert Christopher Newall will address the importance of drawing in the context of British art of the second half of the nineteenth century, focussing on the work of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and artists of the Aesthetic Movement. Some of the most remarkable and progressive Victorian painters, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and Frederic Leighton, used drawing to invent their compositions and refine their ideas. Their drawings were seldom intended to be seen outside of the studio and therefore reveal a freedom and originality that was sometimes lost in their more self-conscious finished paintings. A contributing author to the catalogue accompanying Beauty’s Awakening, Newall maintains that the medium of drawing was decidedly personal and one in which artists expressed themselves without concern for convention or the expectations of the commercial art world. Ultimately, the intimacy of such expression came to be seen as fascinating and valuable in its own right.

Meet the Experts: Sonia Del Re and Dr. Dennis T. Lanigan
Friday 30 October from 12 to 1 pm
Free with admission to the exhibition. In English with bilingual question period. Meet in the exhibition space.

Meet Sonia Del Re, Associate Curator of European, American and Asian Prints and Drawings, and Dr. Dennis Lanigan, collector and donor of the drawings in the exhibition. For nearly twenty years, Dr. Lanigan has enriched the Gallery’s collection with regular gifts of British works from the Victorian era. In conversation with Sonia Del Re, Dr. Lanigan will share his passion for art and the history of his collection.

Pre-Raphaelite Illustration: A Selection from the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives
6 October to 31 December 2015
In the Library and Archives

Against the backdrop of a rapidly expanding desire for books and advances in printing techniques that allowed publishers to meet this growing demand, book illustration was elevated to a high art during the nineteenth century. This tendency was particularly evident in works produced by members of the Pre-Raphaelite movement in England from the mid-1850s until the 1890s. Several prominent artists were active as illustrators during the century, John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Edward Burne-Jones among them, and they worked in tandem with skilled engravers such as the Dalziel brothers and Joseph Swain. On view in the National Gallery of Canada Library, this related exhibition will highlight outstanding examples of Pre-Raphaelite illustrated books from the Library collection.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Study of the Figure of Love for “Dante’s Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice,” 1874. Red, grey and brown chalks on wove paper, 59 × 42.3 cm. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Gift of the Lanigan Collection, 2015. Photo © NGC

Beauty's Awakening Catalogue$40.00
Paperback | 216 pages

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