The Pre-Raphaelites: What they did for us

john everett millais sir isumbras at the ford

John Everitt Millais (1857) Sir Isumbras at the Ford

We’ve all heard of the term, ‘Pre-Raphaelite’ but what exactly does it mean?  The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (shortened down to Pre-Raphaelites), was a group of forward-thinking men who were painters, poets and critics.  They were established in 1848 and the group initially included William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, and was later joined by James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner.

The group rejected what it saw to be a mechanistic approach to art that followed Raphael and Michaelangelo.  They were particuarly critical of Sir Joshua ‘Sloshua’ Reynolds who founded the Royal Academy of Arts. They accused him of being ‘sloshy’ in his preference for unimaginative and bland art that followed the methods and compositions of others in a sheep-like fashion. They argued for the need for innovation, vibrancy, colour, different designs and compositions and life in their paintings. They preferred brighter colours, scenery and detail. The result of their approach was to open the mind of others to innovation and a personalisation of their art.  As well as leaving us all with the legacy of some beautiful paintings, they also left us with an important message.

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