Theodor von Holst and his Art


Theodor van Holst (1810-44) was an English Romantic artist who is perhaps best known today for being the first illustrator of Mary Shelley’s 1831 edition of Frankenstein. However from early on in his career, until his early death in 1844, he created work which anticipated and was much admired by members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. They felt a sympathy with his medievalism, draughtsmanship and colouring, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) in particular drew attention to Holst as a significant link between the older generation of painters such as Henry FuseIi (1741-1825), William Blake (1757-1827) and Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) and those who followed him. As well as Rossetti these included John Everett Millais (1829-96), Arthur Hughes (1832-1915), and the sculptor Alexander Munro (1825-71). Von Holst’s paintings such as The Wish (cat.41) and The Bride (cat.42) can be considered forerunners of the Pre-Raphaelite portraits of their ‘stunners’. These models and muses became overriding focal points in the lives and art of the PRB circle of artists. Holst’s painting The Wish also inspired Rossetti to write his first widely published poem, The Card Dealer, in 1848 and members of the Brotherhood frequented the London restaurant Campbell’s Scotch Stores in Beak Street because it was hung with paintings by Holst.

This bicentenary exhibition celebrates van Holst’s birth, explores his influence on the Pre-Raphaelites and acknowledges his debt to his earlier influences and teachers at the Royal Academy. Over fifty works are displayed, including one by Fuseli and two by Rossetti, and many of the paintings, drawings, books and letters are on show to the public for the first time.

Theodor van Holst

The Holst Birthplace Museum would like to thank the following sponsors for their generosity which was essential for the realisation of this exhibition: Beechwood Shopping Centre; Cheltenham Arts Council; Cheltenham Surfacing Ltd; Cheltenham DFAS; West Mercia DFAS; The Charles Irving Charitable Trust; The Holst Foundation; Kingscott Dix (Cheltenham) Ltd; Nina Zborowska; Potter & Holmes Architects, and The Ernest Cook Trust.