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The Pre-Raphaelite Movement

The Pre-Raphaelite Movement Collage

Started: 1848

Ended: 1890

"We sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parading and learned by rote"

The Pre-Raphaelites Signature

Summary of The Pre-Raphaelite Movement

The Pre-Raphaelites opposed the dominance of the British Royal Academy, which championed a narrow range of idealized or moral subjects and conventional definitions of beauty drawn from the early Italian Renaissance and Classical art. In contrast, the Pre-Raphaelites took inspiration from an earlier (pre-Raphaelite - before the artist Raphael) period, that is, the centuries preceding the High Renaissance. They believed painters before the Renaissance provided a model for depicting nature and the human body realistically, rather than idealistically, and that collective guilds of medieval craftspeople offered an alternative vision of artistic community to mid-19th-century academic approaches.

Key Ideas

The Pre-Raphaelites rejected not only the British Royal Academy's preference for Victorian subjects and styles, but also its teaching methods. They believed that rote learning had replaced truth and experience. Theirs was one of the first major challenges to "official" art, and their early "institutional critique" is a crucial piece of the history of modern art in Britain.
Above all, Pre-Raphaelitism espoused Naturalism: the detailed study of nature by the artist and fidelity to its appearance, even when this risked showing ugliness. It also named a preference for natural forms as the basis for patterns and decoration that offered an antidote to the industrial designs of the machine age.
As part of their reaction to the negative impact of industrialization, Pre-Raphaelites turned to the medieval period as a stylistic model and as an ideal for the synthesis of art and life in the applied arts. Their revival of medieval styles, stories, and methods of production greatly influenced the development of the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau design movements.
Detail of <i>The Beloved</i> (1865-6), also known as <i>The Bride</i>,  by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

"Beauty without the beloved is like a sword through the heart," Dante Gabriel Rossetti wrote. His emphasis upon ideal female beauty made him a maverick among the Pre-Raphaelites.

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