Pre-Raphaelites


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Pre-Raphaelites

(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 was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelites. In addition to attending the Royal Academy he studied painting briefly with Ford Madox Brown.
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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.

Bibliography

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).

Pre-Raphaelites

 

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.

REFERENCES

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.

A. N. DOROSHEVICH

References in periodicals archive ?
National Museums Liverpool has worked with one of the world's leading Pre-Raphaelite experts, Christopher Newall, to produce the exhibition which reveals how the Northern art scene rivalled London in Victorian England.
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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.
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One wonders about a lingering isolation of Catholic and Protestant perspectives, making it difficult to acknowledge more fully the earlier German and French revivals, which held ideals later articulated by the Pre-Raphaelites.
The Pre-Raphaelites were revivalists of medieval and Renaissance art; they were sensualists and fantasists, exploring the erotic and the arcane.