Monday, 2 May 2011
Lloyd Webber's Pre-Raphaelites
'I built my soul a lordly pleasure-house,/Wherein at ease for aye to dwell’. The opening words of Tennyson’s ‘The Palace of Art’ came surging up as I watched Andrew Lloyd Webber hold forth on ITV about the Pre-Raphaelites last night. He sat beneath Rossetti’s ‘Proserpine’ (which he owns) and at a Kate Faulkner-decorated piano (which he also owns), and with the walls of his house absolutely chock-a-block with other famous Pre-Raph paintings from his personal collection. ‘And who shall gaze upon/My palace with unblinded eyes ...?’, Tennyson’s poem hubristically continues; and how could it be that so many important paintings that should absolutely be out in the public domain could be so greedily hoarded by one wealthy individual like this? Let’s hope that Lloyd Webber doesn’t have the shattering guilty nervous breakdown suffered by the soul in Tennyson’s poem, but he has certainly created around himself a palace of culture quite as dead and inert as hers.
On the day Lloyd Webber’s programme was broadcast, the veteran British heavyweight boxer Henry Cooper died, whose great fights with Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali I watched on television with my father many years ago. More genuine culture in Our ‘Enry’s basic human decency than in the whole of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stifling Palace of Art, one would think.