The Pre-Raphaelites were a small group of English artists and writers in the mid-1800s who opposed the art style of Italian painter, Raphael. At the time, Raphael’s art form was promoted by the Royal Academy of Arts as an exemplary style to be learned and copied. In contrast, the Pre-Raphaelites wanted to return to a time before Raphael – when art was luminous and bright, subjects were noble, genuine, and complex, styles were intricate with detail, and nature was depicted with accuracy – hence the name: “Pre-Raphaelite”.
The Pre-Raphaelites were revolutionary and reformists. They were greatly influenced by the vibrant emotions and individualism found in Romanticism as well as the spirituality and creativity of the medieval period. The movement began with three artists: William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. They were then joined by William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens, and Thomas Woolner to form the seven member, Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood didn’t last long. By the 1860s the original members had expanded or left this particular art style. Fortunately, their work and ideals left a mark in the art world. Pre-Raphaelitism continued to influence later artists like Arthur Hughes, John William Waterhouse, and Evelyn de Morgan.
The Pre-Raphaelites brought beauty, vibrancy, and romance to the world of art and for that we are ever grateful. We can spend hours gazing at their works and still return with awe. Here are our top 15 paintings by the original members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood…