Oh, my beating heart.
Once upon a time, a writer and a composer met on Twitter, and bonded over a hashtag.
Under the hashtag #NeglectedWomen, I spent over two years showcasing some of the female artists, adventurers, scientists, architects, inventors and warriors, neglected by historians in favour of their male contemporaries. Among them were a number of female artists reduced to the status of “Muses”.
The Stunners of this story are the models who sat for the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – some of them artists in their own right; all surprisingly diverse. Lovers of Pre-Raphaelite art may already know of Lizzie Siddall, Janey Morris or Fanny Cornforth; but what about Fanny Eaton, the Jamaican model, or the tragic figures of Ellen Smith and Sophy Gray? Mostly, all we see of them now is the work of those artists who chose them, posed them, idealized them, and dressed them in the costumes of an imaginary age. Through the lens of the male gaze, their true faces are seldom seen. Silent in their attitudes, they have no voices of their own.
Or have they?
A lockdown in a gallery brings five very different women together. These women – all of them strangers – find themselves sharing the stories of those long-dead Stunners, and finding that their own lives are not as different as they think…
THE STUNNERS OPERA, by Howard Goodall and Yours Truly, is holding rehearsals this month, and there will be five performances in November. Even the poster looks fabulous, and tickets are already on sale right here…