Calling themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (to recognize the period before Raphael and the Renaissance), this artistic coterie was founded in 1849 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, and William Holman Hunt to bring new life to a tired cultural palette.... [more]
Calling themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (to recognize the period before Raphael and the Renaissance), this artistic coterie was founded in 1849 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, and William Holman Hunt to bring new life to a tired cultural palette. The Pre-Raphaelites held a perverse fascination in overturning the artistic conventions of their time. Presaged by poet Robert Browning, whose elaborate biblical allusions and hard-edged Realism enormously influenced Rossetti, the PRB flatly defied academic techniques, focusing instead upon the unlikely application of an almost photographic realism to highly symbolic or imaginative subjects, known as Symbolic Realism.
On a quest for the symbolic depth and the fidelity to nature found in the paintings created before Raphael and the High Renaissance, the PRB specialized in medieval themes and idealized depictions of nature. They created works rich in mood, eroticism, and sensual details. Pre-Raphaelite poetry is a heady mixture of sensual details, luxuriant vowel sounds, complex poetic structures, heavily symbolic narratives, and a romanticized ideal of the medieval.
The Pre-Raphaelites burned with a quixotic sense of righting the aesthetic wrongs of the past inflicted by an errant, beauty-worshipping academy that had lost sight of the underlying truth of existence. The Brotherhood tried to correct these wrongs with some startling new practices. They looked backwards for their technique and subject matter, venerating of the ideals of a pre-rational culture, flatly defying academic techniques, and instead applying Symbolic Realism in their poetry as well as in their painting.
The PRB also encouraged artists and writers to practice each other's art, believing that artists should cross-train in multiple disciplines since all arts were closely allied and mutually reinforcing. In this spirit, the poetry of Christina Rossetti, A.G. Swinburne, and the art of William Morris, John Ruskin, and J. M. Whistler typified their ideals. Both the art and the verse greatly inspired many leading writers of the 1890s, including Gerald Manley Hopkins, Oscar Wilde, and William Butler Yeats. [show less]