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Popular painting returns to the North East

Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne One of the North East’s best loved paintings is to go back on show at the Laing Art Gallery having been on tour to Tate Britain in London and to the National Gallery in Washington, USA. Isabella and the Pot of Basil by Pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman Hunt will go on show as part of a new display of 18th and 19th century paintings, appearing alongside works by John Martin and Edward Burne-Jones amongst others. The painting is being given some TLC by the Gallery’s team of conservators in advance of the new display, opening on Thursday 19 September. Conservation Officer Rory Johnson has been carrying out repairs to the back of the painting’s frame. Rory explained: “The frame was adapted especially for this painting and dates from around 1867, when the painting was completed. The conservation team here at the Laing has been carrying out some repairs to the wood of the frame to make sure that the weight of the painting is distributed evenly when it is hung on the wall.” This is the first time that Isabella and the Pot of Basil is on show for just over a year, having been part of the popular exhibition 'Pre-Raphaelites - Victorian Avant-Garde’ at Tate Britain and Washington’s National Gallery. William Holman Hunt was one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of artists. This magnificent painting is typical of his work, and is based on verses from John Keats's 19th century poem, Isabella, a re-interpretation of a medieval story. The story goes that Isabella fell in love with Lorenzo, one of her brothers' employees. When her brothers find out, they murder Lorenzo and bury his body. His ghost informs Isabella in a dream. She exhumes his body and buries the head in a pot of basil which she tends obsessively, while pining away. This painting is especially poignant as it was modelled on the artist's wife, Fanny Waugh, who died before the picture was completed. He continued working on the painting as a labour of love and a memorial to her. Also on show in the new display will be a number of paintings by John Martin, a key figure in 19th century art, renowned for his spectacular paintings of apocalyptic destruction and biblical catastrophe. In preparation for the new display, the Laing’s 18th and 19th century gallery will be closed from Saturday September 7 until Wednesday September 18. The new display opens on Thursday 19 September.