Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood: Nature, legends and feminine beauty
1848. Gower Street (Londres). Messrs. Millais House. They have a son, John Everett Millais, he studies in the Royal Academy of Arts founded by Sir Joshua Reynolds, cold art full of strict rules and stereotypies. Young John dislikes that Academy but he shares artistic ideas with other young friends: Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt. That day, they founded the “Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood” and declared their future ideology:
1st: to have genuine ideas and to express them in a sincere way.
2nd: to learn from nature the essence of reality.
3rd: to choose everything direct, sincere and serious in the art of past centuries and to discard the conventional and self-parodying.
4th: and above all, to look for perfection, producing good pictures and statues.
Soon, other young artists joined the brotherhood: James Collinson, the sculptor and poet Thomas Woolner, Rossetti’s brother and Frederic George Stephens, the latter two were critics. They agreed to sign their works with their name and the initials “PRB”.
Young fantastic artists on the border of Romanticism (they admired artists Heinrich Füssli and William Blake, and poet Keats) and “realism”, but not their contemporary French Realism (Courbet). They looked for the deep search of the essence of our world as they had been doing previous artists to Michelangelo and Raphael di Sanzio (hence the name of the Brotherhood). No more cold Mannerism! No more Academicism! No more false paintings and sculptures of great technique but unfeeling! They are going to love Italian artists of the Quattrocento and above all, artists of the Middle Ages: by their attention to detail, by the importance they gave to all figures and objects, by the symbolism of their smallest objects and the beauty of their big figures.
They developed a technique of painting in thin glazes of pigment over a wet white ground. Thus, colors retained jewel-like transparency and clarity. This emphasis on brilliance of color was in reaction to the excessive use of bitumen by earlier British artists, such as academic artist Sir Joshua Reynolds (bitumen produces unstable areas of muddy darkness).
Nature, legends and women will be their favorite topics. The feminine is revalued because Nature is mother, a generous mother of long hair which waters the earth.
1849. First exhibitions: John Millais and Holman Hunt exhibited at the Royal Academy their respective paintings “Isabella” and “Rienzi”, and Rossetti “Girlhood of Mary Virgin” at the Free Exhibition on Hyde Park Corner. No very success. Same happened with their cultural magazine “The Germ”.
1850. John Millais exhibites “Christ in The House of His Parents” and it starts the controversy. The painting was considered to be blasphemous by many reviewers and the medieval influence of the work was attacked as backward-looking. Notably Charles Dickens and The Clique’s attacks.
Young people! Frightened, some members left the Brotherhood and after some disputes the group disappeared. No longer they are going to sign “PRB” but they will follow their ideology and techniques forever and their influence will be present until today, because that Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood left us some of the most awesome artworks of the second half part of the 19th century.
Enjoy Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood gallery!
**Some posterior artists influenced by Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood: John Brett, Philip Calderon, Arthur Hughes, Evelyn de Morgan and Frederic Sandys.
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