Revisiting Rossetti

Just a little bit of background to bring you up to speed on my forthcoming release, The Girl in the Photograph, and how it links in to my Rossetti Mysteries series. The series was, as you might know, inspired by a fascination with the Pre-Raphaelite artists and the work that they produced. The Girl in the Photograph is the third novel in the series, and was inspired by something I found inside a second-hand 1984 Tate Gallery Exhibition catalogue; a newspaper clipping from 2003 – an article, neatly cut out and slipped between the pages.


It might not be as exciting (or as haunted, thank goodness) as the things my characters find, but it tells the story of an unpublished Julia Margaret Cameron photograph from 1866 – the sitter was unknown but the style and everything else is pure, unadulterated Cameron; this photograph was found and published for the first time in that newspaper article before it went to a Cameron exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Julia Margaret Cameron was one of the most famous Pre-Raphaelite photographers, and often based her shots on Pre-Raphaelite paintings. I always intended my Rossetti series to be a trilogy, and this discovery helped to inform the ideas in the third novel. The mystery in The Girl in the Photograph surrounds what could be a Cameron photograph, depicting an unknown model, destined for an exhibition.

The novel was also inspired, in part, by two paintings housed at my local art gallery, The Laing, in Newcastle upon Tyne. We are lucky enough to have a few Pre-Raphaelite paintings in there (including Holman Hunt’s Isabella and the Pot of Basil and a couple of Rossettis, amongst others), but we also have these stunning works of art by Dame Laura Knight and Harold Knight. Laura did On the Beach (1909) and her husband did In the Spring (1908). The Girl in the Photograph is set on the coast in summertime and the historical part is set in Edwardian times. Laura and Harold were part of the famous Newlyn group of artists and also came to Staithes in North Yorkshire, where the book is set, as part of the Staithes Group of Artists. The Staithes Group was breaking up around 1905, and my own Edwardian photographer, Julian, comes to record it all before it fades away. The Knights were a perfect link and Lorelei, my Edwardian heroine, has a foothold in both Staithes and Newlyn – and, of course, she knew the Knights!


I’ve loved revisiting The Rossetti Mysteries in this third book. I’ll be ‘rambling’ again when The Girl in the Photograph is published on the 7th of March, the same day as the paperback of The Girl in the Painting is released. How very exciting!


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