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Tate's Rossetti exhibition reviews: What the critics say

Updated: Sep 2, 2023

Tate Britain's new Rossetti exhibition is billed as the first retrospective of Dante Gabriel Rossetti in the gallery's history. And with around 90 of his artworks on show, it's the largest UK exhibition of his output in twenty years. But is it any good?

Well, according to critics the answer is no.

"[A] bloated mess" says Time Out. "You spend the whole first half waiting to be wowed by some majestic painting and then find they've saved them all for the last two rooms." Unsurprisingly after these comments, critic Eddy Frankel only awarded it two stars out of five.

Photograph of two women standing either side of a painting hanging on a gallery wall
The Rossettis at Tate Britain © Tate (Madeleine Buddo)

The Guardian were even less enamoured. "Baffling" and "overblown" are the words that begin Jonathan Jones' review for the paper. Jones doesn't much like the work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and believes he's shown up by the poetry of his sister Christina in the exhibition. "Her steady quiet voice is drowned out by his lurid paintings of luscious-lipped beauties" he laments.

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"[A] strange, unsatisfying experience" claims the Daily Telegraph. Alastair Sooke thinks this is essentially a DG Rossetti retrospective, but that Tate felt compelled to crowbar in the works of Christina and his wife Elizabeth Siddal because today's zeitgeist doesn't much like celebrating individual genius. But the review's headline perhaps best sums up Sooke's thoughts on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood works on show: "Plain creepy."

Culture Whisper like all of the above could only muster a two-star review. Tabish Khan criticises the lack of "epic paintings" that Dante Gabriel Rossetti is famous for, and that most visitors will be there to see. "This show holds out and only gives us what we came for right at the end" meaning that for him it's ultimately "a disappointing miss."

Did any critic like it? Well, the Evening Standard were a lone positive voice. In a four-star review, Melanie McDonagh does believe the "splendid loans here from Delaware and private collections...make a visit worthwhile." But even she concedes that visitors will leave this show "reeling from a hothouse surfeit of sensuousness and big hair."

If the reviews haven't put you off, then you can see The Rossettis at Tate Britain until 24 September 2023.

Or you can buy the The Rossettis exhibition catalogue* too. Published by Tate Publishing, it's 240 pages and a fully-illustrated accompaniment to those who want to delve deeper into the show.

*This website is reader-supported. When you buy through this link, we may earn a small commission.


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