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The Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood

We regularly reference the Pre Raphaelites in our blogs, William Morris himself being a part of the second wave of the movement. We wanted to revisit who they were and what they stand for just to give some reference to what we’re talking about in our blogs. 

Founded in 1848 in London, the initial movement was opposed to the Royal Academy’s promotion of the idealised version of work from the work of Raphael. Raphael, born in 1483 was an Italian painter and architect off the High Renaissance. You may have heard of him for being part of the ‘trinity’ of great masters of art; together with Michealangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Today, his art can be seen in the Vatican Palace, together with lots of other stunning art from over their extraordinary history. His work was famed for it’s clarity of form and ease of composition. 

The movement evolved from the 1848 to the late 19th century as perhaps when we best know the movement, but it started as a group of seven banded together under the same ideals. The name alludes to their preference of the art that came before the work of Raphael. 

The painters; Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Frederic George Stephens and James Collinson, the non-painters were sculptor Thomas Woolner and William Micheal Rossetti – Dante’s brother. They were inspired by more of a return to naturalistic inspiration, their ideal was a ‘truth to nature’ where they wanted a return to the simplicity of the art of the earlier periods. There wasn’t a defined aim with the movement or within the group but the ultimate feeling and understanding amongst the group was to modernise art by going back to the practices of the Middle Ages instead of the Raphael dominating influence of the time. Of course, we love the movement as it brought us such stunning art with an influence of nature. 

The movement was even mentioned by Charles Dickens himself, the press in general were disparaging towards the movement and Dickens as no different, “the lowest depths of what is mean, odious, repulsive and revolting” was his review of Millais’s painting. 

To make it easier to explain we must mention that the ‘original’ movement went through a dissolution in the early 1850s, before the ideals were revived in 1857. It was when the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’s ideals were redefined by William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and painters – Aurthur Hughes, Valentine Prinsep and more. It was actually classes taught in London by Ruskin, Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Prinsep and Ford Madox Brown at a college with the intent to give the working class men access to an education. It brought back the intentions of the movement and led to the firm, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. which eventually led to Morris setting up his company Morris & Co. 

The ideals behind the firm were ultimately to revive skills such as hand crafting and techniques which were beginning to be lost with the rise of industrialisation occurring at the time. This was a huge push in the Arts and Crafts Movement, for example Morris’ pioneering indigo dye technique which he mastered with his printing process for designs such as Brother Rabbit. 

With poems, art, literature and craftsmanship being celebrated from the movement, there’s so much that came from the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood and we thankfully still have so much of their art and literature to celebrate today. The naturalistic forms of the art in particular, we’re so happy they did – Morris’s naturalistic influences are legendary. Through each of his designs, you can see beautiful influences from his garden and trips to the countryside, we love bringing his adventures into our home even today. 

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