The Pre-Raphaelite Movement

In the autumn of 1848 Dante Gabriel Rossetti, his brother William Michael Rossetti, Willaim Holman Hunt, Thomas Wooler, Frederic George Stephens and James Collinson met John Everett Millais in London's Gower Street. They examined engravings of early Italian frescoes which they admired for their sincerity and honesty of purpose, something they reckoned was missing from English art of the time. Six of the seven were artists who were fundamentally opposed to the methods of training adopted and promoted by the British Royal Academy Schools. Sir Joshua Reynolds, the first President of the Royal Academy they dubbed Sir Sloshua! The term, Pre-Raphaelite, is used to refer to examples of the groups' art and design produced throughout the second half of the 19th century.

Dante Gabriels' "Monna Vanna"

Famous paintings include:

  • Holman Hunt:
    "The Light of the World" 1853
  • Dante Gabriel:
    "Monna Vanna" 1866
    "Girlhood of Mary Virgin" 1848-1849
  • Millais:

Many other artists including many female artists not present at Gower Street worked in a Pre-Raphaelite idiom. They also included William Morris of the arts and crafts furnishings and the critic John Ruskin was a fan. Their monogram PRB was often displayed on their paintings and this can be seen on the drawings of Alice Boyd of Penkill which remain in the castle to this day.
The Pre-Raphaelites faced violent critisism from no other than Charles Dickens, the art critic of "The Times". However, John Ruskin became a powerful ally and wrote to The Times in their defence. Ruskin's formulation of art as nature became one of the most important and influential theories of the 19th century. By the late 1850's Pre-Raphaelite art had become respectable.

Other famous paintings are : 'Ophelia' by Sir John E Millais, 1852, (modelled by Lizzie Siddal to her great discomfort!); 'The Last of England' by Ford Maddox Brown; 'The Boyhood of Raleigh' by Millais 1870; 'The Beloved' by Rossetti 1865 and his memorial to Lizzie who became his wife, 'Beata Beatrix', painted partly from guilt of his infidelities, partly from idealised love. A replica in oil was also made. It was begun in 1877 and was unfinished at the time of Rossetti's death. Ford Maddox Brown completed the painting.

Recommended Reading: 'Essential Pre-Raphaelites' by Lucinda Hawksley.








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