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The Legend of King Arthur – A Pre-Raphaelite Love Story

Spectacular Cornish touring exhibition that traces the stories of Arthurian legend and the Pre-Raphaelite artists has returned to Falmouth. Read on to find out more about this incredible exhibition!

Falmouth Art Gallery welcomed home its popular touring exhibition in June. The exhibition tells the story for the first time of the links between Arthurian legend and the Pre-Raphaelite artists – and offers an exclusive opportunity to see the entire Lady of Shalott series of paintings by John William Waterhouse together for the first time in the UK.



The Legend of King Arthur: A Pre-Raphaelite Love Story, curated by Natalie Rigby, traces the legend of King Arthur across the county, drawing together over 60 iconic works of art from public and private lenders around the UK and beyond. Having travelled extensively, the final stage of the exhibition brings it to Cornwall – long-known for its connections to the legend of King Arthur, until the 30 September.

Falmouth Art Gallery has secured the entire Lady of Shalott series of paintings by English painter John William Waterhouse as a major part of the exhibition. Painted over a twenty-year period, these have never been exhibited together in the UK, providing an exclusive and unique opportunity to see them all together in Cornwall. Oil studies, drawings and sketchbooks from the series and Waterhouse’s personal copy of ‘Tennyson’s Poems’ with drawings and annotations are also being displayed.



Cornwall is home to a number of key sites linked to the legend of King Arthur, including Arthur’s birthplace and castle, Merlin’s cave at Tintagel, the battle site between King Arthur and Mordred, the site of the Lady of the Lake, the location of Excalibur at Loe Bar and the Tristan stone in Fowey. The exhibition is part of a year-long touring exhibition at three renowned British public museums – the William Morris Gallery in London, Tullie House in Carlisle and Falmouth Art Gallery in Cornwall were selected for their connection to the stories of King Arthur, with each stage of the tour tweaked to tell the stories of their particular region.



The 12-month touring exhibition brings together large oil paintings, sketches and oil studies, illustrated books, sketchbooks and etchings at all three galleries, with exhibits differing slightly between the venues – all exploring the King Arthur legend through the lens of Pre-Raphaelite artists and their followers, who were challenging the conventional paintings they had typically seen at the Royal Academy in the mid-1800s. A fully illustrated book accompanies the exhibition. Published by Sansom & Company, it features essays by internationally recognised Arthurian specialists and explores the legend and its influence on the Victorian period.

Falmouth Art Gallery are exhibiting work by Pre-Raphaelite artists such as William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale, Emma Sandys Edward Burne-Jones, John William Waterhouse, and Elizabeth Siddal amongst many others.



Morwenna Lewis, Director of Falmouth Art Gallery, said: “The Gallery team are thrilled to be bringing this long-awaited swoon of a show to Cornwall. It is bigger than anything the Gallery has put on before, and promises to be an indulgence for the senses, capturing the quintessential spirit of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and delighting locals and visitors alike.”

This exhibition has been kindly supported by Visit Cornwall, Visit England and Cornwall Museums Partnership. This exhibition was made possible with Art Fund support.



Falmouth Art Gallery is one of the leading art galleries in the South West with a broad and eclectic exhibition programme.

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Florence Cashel

Theatre, live music, comedy, community workshops with social impact: these are a few of Florence’s favourite things. When she’s not at Cornwall 365, Florence is a theatremaker and performer.