are laughed at
in this nightmare land
–Jack Kerouac “Pomes All Sizes
Originated by art school friends William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, who called everything they hated ‘slosh,’ including Raphael’s ‘Transfiguration,’ the Pre-Raphaelites rejected the Renaissance and embraced Medieval times. They were sick of the pretentious conventionality of theVictorian era. Like the Beat Generation writers in the 1950’s, the Pre-Raphaelites–a hundred years earlier– were rejecting the oppressiveness and cheap moralizing of their era. Pre-punk rogues and radicals, they were outside of society.
The ideals for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were simple:
1. To have genuine ideas to express;
2. To study Nature attentively, so as to know how to express them;
3. To sympathize 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;
4. And more indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues.
Rossetti provided the real energy for the group with his far-reaching artistic sense. But it was Hunt’s disdain for anything too academic and their reading of John Ruskin’s “Modern Painters” that was thecatalyst.
The seven founding members were: Dante Gabriel Rossetti and fellow artists William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, James Collinson, Thomas Woolner. Also two art critics: Rossetti’s brother William (who was later the Pre-Raphaelite archivist) and Frederic George Stephens.
The initials “PRB” began to appear along with their signatures on their works. The initials were soon critically attacked. This event brought the respected writer and artist John Ruskin to their defense. He defined what the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood did as “serious art” and his authority helped establish the movement’s respected cultural position.
Later they started a radical art magazine called “The Germ”. Later they went their separate ways. But not before influencing Modern Art, including the Surrealists, Art Deco, Bloomsbury’s Omega Workshops and the Arts & Crafts movement in decorative arts, D.H. Lawrence, and so much more.