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(prē'-răf`ēəlīts'), brotherhood of English painters and poets formed in 1848 in protest against what they saw as the low standards and decadence of British art. The principal founders were D. G. RossettiRossetti, Dante Gabriel
, 1828–82, English poet and painter; son of Gabriele Rossetti and brother of Christina Rossetti. He attended the Royal Academy and studied painting briefly with Ford Madox Brown. In 1848 he became acquainted with W.
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, W. Holman HuntHunt, William Holman,
1827–1910, English painter. Hunt was a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood and one of its most conscientious exponents. His paintings are often crude in color and laborious in technique, but are completely sincere in their devotion to
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, and John MillaisMillais, Sir John Everett
, 1829–96, English painter. A prodigy, he began studying at the Royal Academy at the age of 11. In 1848, together with William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, he initiated the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
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, at the time students at the Royal Academy of Art. In poetry as well as painting, the Pre-Raphaelites turned away from the growing materialism of industrialized England. They sought refuge, through literary symbolism and imagery, in the beauty and comparative simplicity of the medieval world. In the works of the Italian painters prior to Raphael, they found a happy innocence of style that they tried to imitate. Influenced by the NazarenesNazarenes
, group of German artists of the early 19th cent., who attempted to revive Christian art. In 1809, J. F. Overbeck and Franz Pforr formed an art cooperative in Vienna called the Brotherhood of St. Luke.
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, a similar group of German painters founded in Rome in 1810, and also inspired by England's Gothic revivalGothic revival,
term designating a return to the building styles of the Middle Ages. Although the Gothic revival was practiced throughout Europe, it attained its greatest importance in the United States and England.
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, the Pre-Raphaelites declared themselves devotees of nature and truth. In the early 1850s their works were violently criticized, first by Charles Dickens, as being vulgar and ugly. They were defended by John Ruskin and attracted numerous followers, among whom were Edward Burne-JonesBurne-Jones, Sir Edward,
1833–98. English painter and decorator, b. Birmingham. Expected to enter the Church, he went to Exeter College, Oxford, where he met William Morris, who became his lifelong friend.
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, G. F. WattsWatts, George Frederic,
1817–1904, English painter and sculptor. He studied at the Royal Academy and in Italy, where he developed an enthusiasm for Renaissance painting and Greek sculpture that greatly influenced his work.
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, and William MorrisMorris, William,
1834–96, English poet, artist, craftsman, designer, social reformer, and printer. He has long been considered one of the great Victorians and has been called the greatest English designer of the 19th cent.
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, but the group disbanded after 1853 and the movement died out before the end of the century. The paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites are characteristically nostalgic in tone, bright in color, and emotionally overwrought. Despite their supposed predilection for simplicity, they were highly meticulous in detail, often extremely patterned, and mannered in style. Eventually their painting became as artificial as the historical works they had organized to protest. There is a fine collection of Pre-Raphaelite works at the Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Del.


See J. D. Hunt, The Pre-Raphaelite Imagination (1969); J. Nicoll, The Pre-Raphaelites (1970); L. Stevenson, The Pre-Raphaelite Poets (1972); J. Sambrook, ed., Pre-Raphaelitism (1976); T. Hilton, Pre-Raphaelites (1985); J. Marsh, Pre-Raphaelite Women (1988); A. Smith et al., ed., Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848 to 1900 (museum catalog, 2012).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a group of late-19th-century English artists and writers who set as their goal the revival of the “sincerity” and “naïve religiosity” of medieval and Early Renaissance art (before Raphael).

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in 1848 by the poet and painter D. G. Rossetti and the painters J. E. Millais and W. H. Hunt. The three were influenced by F. M. Brown (and through him—by the German Nazarenes) and were supported by J. Ruskin. Advocating romantic criticism of bourgeois culture, the Pre-Raphaelites contrasted cold academicism, the roots of which they saw in the High Renaissance, with the “holy fire” and “living faith” of the “primitives,” who rejected modern aesthetics. This nonhistorical defense of the Middle Ages, linked with a demand for the “aestheticization” of contemporary life, led to a predominance in Pre-Raphaelite art of stylization, exaggerated decorativeness, and meticulous attention to detail.

Pre-Raphaelite poetry, particularly that of Rossetti, is reminiscent of Keats. It is marked by a sensitivity toward beauty (which links the Pre-Raphaelites closely with the poets Tennyson, Browning, and subsequently with Swinburne) and by a spiritualistic cult of love, based on the traditions of medieval Italian literature.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood disbanded in 1853. A revival of the movement occurred in the late 1850’s, when fresh forces —the artists W. Morris, E. Burne-Jones, W. Crane, and G. F. Watts—grouped around Rossetti. Pre-Raphaelite painting took on a decorative slant, with intricate, brightly colored, two-dimensional ornamentation and a mystical system of images (Rossetti, Burne-Jones).

The activities of the confirmed socialist Morris were broader in scope. He strove to re-create in industry a “spiritualized” handicraft production to replace the dehumanized, machine production. He also sought to introduce beauty into everyday life. Morris gathered together many master craftsmen, including F. M. Brown, A. Hughes, and the architect P. Webb, in a revival of English decorative applied art (drawings of the various articles produced in the workshops organized by Morris, the design of publications of the Kelmscott Press).

The ideas and work of the Pre-Raphaelites to a large extent influenced the development of symbolism and aestheticism of the fin de siècle in literature (W. Pater, O. Wilde). The Pre-Raphaelite movement promoted acceptance of art nouveau in the pictorial arts (A. Beardsley) and in the decorative arts. It laid the foundation for the theory of art’s “life-building” role in the social process.


Vengerova, Z. A. Literaturnye kharakteristiki [vol. 1]—Prerafaelitskoe dvizhenie v Anglii. St. Petersburg, 1897.
Ruskin, J. Pre-Raphaelitism. London, 1851.
Fredeman, W. E. Pre-Raphaelitism: A Bibliocritical Study. Cambridge, Mass., 1965.
Hunt, J. D. The Pre-Raphaelite Imagination: 1848–1900. [Lincoln], 1968.
Hönnigshausen, L. Präraphaeliten und Fin de Siėcle. Munich, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
[pounds sterling]9.5 million work by founder of Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood John Everett Millais is now at risk of permanently leaving the UK
They included pictures of her brother Dante Gabriel, co-founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and of her maternal uncle John Polidori, Byron's physician in 1816 and the author of The Vampyre.
ART lovers in Liverpool who have a few spare bob after Christmas could snap up this rare original sketch by Dante Gabriel Rossetti - for between PS20,000 and PS30,000 (if they're lucky!) The London-born poet, illustrator, painter and translator (1828-1882) was one of the leading lights of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and this preliminary pencil drawing was once owned by fellow artist LS Lowry.
A journey through the PRB's body of work is likely to elicit the response: "Oh, I've seen that before." Because of their illustrations for well-loved books and because their art is used in textbooks and web pages discussing literature (the Pre-Raphaelites loved to depict scenes from Shakespeare, Dante, Boccaccio, Keats, and Tennyson, among others) these paintings penetrate the popular subconscious of the English-speaking world like few others.
In the pages of "Critics, Coteries, and Pre-Raphaelite Celebrity", author Wendy Graham (Professor of English at Vassar College.
The faces of the women in the images vary, though the majority are dream-like with Pre-Raphaelite flowing locks, and far-away expressions.
But the Pre-Raphaelites also saw themselves as sharing a common cause with science in their pursuit of truth through the meticulous and scrupulous observation and investigation of nature, including human nature.
William Holman Hunt was one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of artists.
This is an outstanding exhibition which underlines--vividly and persuasively --the pictorial and cultural radicalism of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
Pre-Raphaelites).The dynamism of White Rose--underscored by its generic
The book is focused on the National Gallery and gives some idea why the Pre-Raphaelites might have found such a fascination with the minutiae, physical detail, emotional power and innovative subject matter, which made the Renaissance such a remarkable melting pot for Humanism in painting.
The Pre-Raphaelite lens; British photography and painting, 1848-1875.