Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood 1848 – 1855

Style originated by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB), a group of English artists active between 1848 and 1853 Initially characterized by intense colour, tight handling and predominantly medieval subject-matter, during the later 19th century the style became broader and more muted in colour through the work of the Brotherhood’s followers

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (later known as the Pre-Raphaelites) was a group of English painters, poets, and critics, founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti The three founders were joined by William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner to form the seven-member “brotherhood” Their principles were shared by other artists, including Marie Spartali Stillman and Ford Madox Brown

A later, medievalising strain inspired by Rossetti included Edward Burne-Jones and extended into the twentieth century with artists such as John William Waterhouse

The group’s intention was to reform art by rejecting what it considered the mechanistic approach first adopted by Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo Its members believed the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art, hence the name “Pre-Raphaelite” In particular, the group objected to the influence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, founder of the English Royal Academy of Arts, whom they called “Sir Sloshua” To the Pre-Raphaelites, according to William Michael Rossetti, “sloshy” meant “anything lax or scamped in the process of painting and hence any thing or person of a commonplace or conventional kind” The brotherhood sought a return to the abundant detail, intense colours and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian art The group associated their work with John Ruskin, an English critic whose influences were driven by his religious background

The group continued to accept the concepts of history painting and mimesis, imitation of nature, as central to the purpose of art The Pre-Raphaelites defined themselves as a reform movement, created a distinct name for their form of art, and published a periodical, The Germ, to promote their ideas The group’s debates were recorded in the Pre-Raphaelite Journal

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in John Millais’s parents’ house on Gower Street, London in 1848 At the first meeting, the painters John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and William Holman Hunt were present Hunt and Millais were students at the Royal Academy of Arts and had met in another loose association, the Cyclographic Club, a sketching society At his own request Rossetti became a pupil of Ford Madox Brown in 1848 At that date, Rossetti and Hunt shared lodgings in Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia, Central London Hunt had started painting The Eve of St Agnes based on Keats’s poem of the same name, but it was not completed until 1867

As an aspiring poet, Rossetti wished to develop the links between Romantic poetry and art By autumn, four more members, painters James Collinson and Frederic George Stephens, Rossetti’s brother, poet and critic William Michael Rossetti, and sculptor Thomas Woolner, had joined to form a seven-member-strong brotherhood Ford Madox Brown was invited to join, but the more senior artist remained independent but supported the group throughout the PRB period of Pre-Raphaelitism and contributed to The Germ Other young painters and sculptors became close associates, including Charles Allston Collins, Thomas Tupper, and Alexander Munro The PRB intended to keep the existence of the brotherhood secret from members of the Royal Academy