Museum Unveils First Virtual Reality Experience

Featuring the Museum’s famous Pre-Raphaelite painting La Bella Mano

WILMINGTON, DE

Inspired by the Delaware Art Museum’s collection of Pre-Raphaelite Art, artist collaborators Troy Richards and Knut Hybinette developed the Museum’s first virtual reality (VR) experience. The artists re-imagined the world inside the richly layered Victorian painting La Bella Mano by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. La Bella Mano (1875) features three female figures in a Victorian-era home with a circular mirror that reflects an adjacent room. The seeing glass, on view November 18, 2017-January 14, 2018 in the Museum’s Pre-Raphaelite galleries, transforms the painting into a three-dimensional waking dream with lavish décor and decaying displays of flowers, fruit, insects, and skulls.

“The Museum has such an incredible collection and La Bella Mano offered unique opportunities for using the elements in the painting as inspiration,” says Richards. “This is a physical experience that feels real but is out of reach, much like an intangible dream world.”

La Bella Mano is an example of the ‘art for art’s sake’ concept where a work of art becomes a multi-sensory experience instead of relating a specific story.

“At a moment when artists are intensifying their explorations of VR technology, the Museum is able to offer rich subject matter as inspiration for this exciting experimentation,” explains Margaret Winslow, Delaware Art Museum’s Curator of Contemporary Art. “The Museum is home to the largest and most significant British Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom. The seeing glass is a unique and engaging approach for our visitors to be digitally immersed in Pre-Raphaelite art and Victorian history and see this world through the eyes of contemporary artists.”

Like the painting La Bella Mano, there is no linear narrative to the seeing glass. Instead, the viewer is absorbed in the virtual world with the possibility of finding meaning in the symbolism of its objects. The symbols do not add up to a specific message but instead allude to ideas, making connections to historical still life painting and the concept of momento mori–a warning or reminder of death.

“As the visitor moves through the space, objects become blurred and time speeds up, transforming fruit from green to rotten in a matter of seconds,” says Winslow. “The seeing glass allows viewers the opportunity to become absorbed in a virtual reality of historical painting and witness the artificial passage of time.”

The pairing of La Bella Mano and the seeing glass allows a unique opportunity to view the creations of artists working almost 150 years apart employing a similar approach towards art making. “Duration is a possibility Rossetti could only imagine conveying with the limited technology available to him,” adds Margaretta S. Frederick, Annette Woolard-Provine Curator of the Bancroft Collection, “Rossetti would surely be envious!”

The VR artwork uses Unreal Engine, a highly successful gaming program developed by Epic Games, and will be installed directly in the Pre-Raphaelite galleries. Once inside the gallery, the viewer will be guided to put on the VR Oculus Rift headset and will initially find themselves in a Victorian-era room, filled with ornate furniture, potted plants, and elaborate wallpaper. Soft music and a breeze stir the air in the background and occasionally there are sounds of movement as though someone else were in the room.

“It was also exciting to work with the inherit limitations of the VR tech,” explains Richards. “VR allows space and time to be easily manipulated and we can create our own rules for the two-dimensional painting to develop a new, dreamlike world.”

The seeing glass is a timed-entry viewing experience. Timed appointments can be scheduled onsite at the front desk the day of a visit for one person at a time.

To view large images and caption information, click below.

About the Artists

Knut Hybinette received his undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia and his master of fine art’s degree from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His multimedia practice includes game design, photography, animation, video, and sound, and he is currently Assistant Professor in Digital Media Studies at Tarleton State University. Hybinette has exhibited nationally and abroad in his native Sweden, Portugal, and Germany. Collaborative projects have been presented at the Thomas Robertello Gallery in Chicago, and he has participated in group shows at Athens Institute for Contemporary Art in Georgia, the England Machine Festival, and the Poland Contemporary Museum of Art. Hybinette received numerous grants and awards including the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace Grant and Flower Grants from the Game Developer Conference at the Cleveland Institute of Arts.

Troy Richards is an interdisciplinary artist whose creative practice explores painting, printmaking, technology, and collaboration. Richards received his undergraduate degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and his master of fine art’s degree in painting from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He is currently the Dean of the School of Art and Design at The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Richards has extensive experience as an arts administrator and professor, having most recently served as the Interim Associate Dean of the Arts at the University of Delaware. Prior to his appointment in Delaware in 2008, Richards was an Assistant Professor and Chair of Drawing at the Cleveland Institute of Art. He has exhibited widely throughout the United States in shows at MoMA PS1, White Columns, Socrates Sculpture Park, and the Queens Museum of Art, among others. Richards has been the recipient of numerous grants, including the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace Grant and the Ohio Arts Council Grant for Individual Excellence.

Partners and Sponsors

The seeing glass was organized by the Delaware Art Museum. Support was provided, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The Division promotes Delaware arts events on www.DelawareScene.com.

ABOUT THE DELAWARE ART MUSEUM

Founded in 1912, the Delaware Art Museum is recognized for its cornerstone collection of works by celebrated American artist and illustrator Howard Pyle, a Wilmington native, complemented by hundreds of works by some of the most talented illustrators.

Also renowned for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the largest and most significant Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom, assembled by Samuel Bancroft, Jr., a Wilmington textile mill owner with a taste for Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other contemporaries of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

The Museum is famous for the preeminent collection of urban landscapes by American painter John Sloan and his circle. The Sloan collection lives alongside an esteemed survey of American art–spanning more than 200 years–from early 19th century through the present, including masterworks by Raphaelle Peale, Frederic Church, Thomas Eakins, Edward Hopper, Robert Motherwell, and Dale Chihuly. Visitors also enjoy the outdoor Copeland Sculpture Garden, featuring large-scale works by Tom Otterness and George Rickey.

For more than 100 years, the Museum has occupied a vibrant place in the life of the Brandywine Valley. More than a collection of beautiful objects, the Museum is a vital source of experiences and discoveries for visitors from around the world.

The Delaware Art Museum is at 2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, DE 19806. Wednesday: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Thursday: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., and Friday – Sunday: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Monday and Tuesday: Closed. Adults (19-59) $12, Seniors (60+) $10, Students (with valid ID) $6, Youth (7-18) $6, and Children (6 and under) free. Admission fees are waived Thursdays 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. and Sundays 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. thanks to support from generous individuals. For more information, call 302-571-9590 or 866-232-3714 (toll free), or visit delart.org.

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For more information, contact:

Jessica Jenkins
Manager of Marketing & Public Relations
jjenkins@delart.org
302.351.8558