Virginia Surtees obituary

By Richard Dorment

Art historian who broke new ground in the study of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and pre-Raphaelite painting

Virginia Surtees, who has died aged 100, was an art historian whose two-volume catalogue of the complete works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, published in 1971, initiated the revival of interest in the then-neglected artist. The book's closely researched catalogue entries broke new ground, setting a standard of scholarship for the study of pre-Raphaelite painting to which a generation of art historians aspired.

Two years later she was responsible for the first modern retrospective of Rossetti's paintings, drawings and watercolours at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, introducing his artistic achievement to a public who had thought of him primarily as a poet with an exceptionally lurid private life. In the decades to follow she published more than a dozen books – many centred on lively, independent and sometimes difficult women.

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