Founded in 1848 as a secret society, the Pre-Raphaelites rejected classical ideals and the dominant artistic genre painting of their era for what they saw as a more spiritual, sincere, and naturalistic approach. Inaugurated by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, they evolved into a seven-member “brotherhood” that included poets and critics as well as painters.
Moving away from the classical compositions exemplified by Raphael (hence the group’s name), the Pre-Raphaelites rather turned to medieval culture and the jewel-like colors of Quattrocento art for inspiration. Their principal themes were initially religious, but also included subjects from literature and poetry, as exemplified by Sir John Everett Millais’ famous Ophelia, drawn from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Inspired by the theories of John Ruskin, they were also committed to the close study of nature.
This book presents key works from the Pre-Raphaelite group to introduce their reactionary principles, their dazzling colors, their interest in love, death, and nature, and their extensive influence on latter-day Symbolism and beyond.