The Pre-Raphaelite art collection at Wightwick

‘Love Among the Ruins’ by Burne-Jones displayed in the Great Parlour, Wightwick Manor

Discover how Sir Geoffrey and Lady Mander's collection of Pre-Raphaelite art at Wightwick Manor came into being.

Sir Geoffrey Mander remarried in 1930. His new wife Rosalie Glynn Grylls gave up her ambitions to be a Liberal MP and focused her attention on English literature and art. Starting with a biography of Mary Shelley, her surroundings at Wightwick soon inspired her to research the Pre-Raphaelites, especially Rossetti.

The beginnings of the collection

Rosalie and Sir Geoffrey began to collect works associated with the movement, especially by those artists who had been friends of Morris; Rossetti, Burne-Jones, their pupils and, interestingly, the Pre-Raphaelite women - principally Evelyn De Morgan and Lizzie Siddal.

They built up a remarkable collection of pastels, sketches and preparatory drawings from these artists, often inviting their descendants to visit with the hope of eliciting donations, which were happily made.

Lady Mander also had an eye for a bargain and made canny purchases, not just of art but of items from Morris & Co range.

A unique partnership

In Wightwick's early years the Mander's were lucky to be supported by James Lees Milne, the enigmatic powerhouse of the post-war National Trust. Together they acquired items not just from auction but moved items from other collections as they were given to the Trust. The most notable of these is Love Among the Ruins, the Burne-Jones oil which now dominates the Great Parlour. This meant that the Wightwick collection has always been dynamic, with new items entering the collection prompting constant reshuffles of the display.

The collecting tradition

The spirit of collecting lives on, supported by a special endowment left by Sir Geoffrey Wightwick still adds works of art to its collection which we feel would have interested the Mander family. The legacy of the relationships they forged are also influencing the collection with gifts coming from friends they made over their collecting years.