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Index by Period

Pre-Raphaelite Movement
(1848 - 1854)

The Pre-Raphaelites, a group of 19th century English painters, poets, and critics who reacted against Victorian materialism and the outworn neo-classical conventions of academic art by producing earnest quasi-religious works inspired by medieval and early Renaissance painters up to the time of the Italian painter and architect Raphael. They were also influenced by the Nazarenes, young German artists who formed a brotherhood in Rome in 1810 to restore Christian art to its medieval purity.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was established in 1848, and its central figure was the painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Other members were his brother, William Michael Rossetti, John Everett Millais, Frederick George Stephens, James Collinson, and Thomas Woolner.

Essentially Christian in outlook, the brotherhood deplored the imitative historical and genre painting of their day. Together they sought to revitalise art through a simpler, more positive vision. In portrait painting, for example, the group eschewed the sombre colours and formal structure preferred by the Royal Academy. They found their inspiration in the comparatively sincere and religious, and scrupulously detailed, art of the Middle Ages. Pre-Raphaelite art became distinctive for its blend of archaic, romantic, and materialistic qualities, but much of it has been criticised as superficial and sentimental, if not artificial. Millais eventually left the group, but other artists joined it, including Edward C Burne-Jones and William Morris. The eminent art critic John Ruskin was an ardent supporter of the movement.

contributed by Gifford, Katya



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