The Pre-Raphaelites

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    The Pre-Raphaelites

    It was on three wet and cold Sunday afternoons as Tasmania and Australia moved first closer to and then beyond the winter solstice---that I learned a few things about art history. What I learned was about an art movement known as the Pre-Raphaelites.

    My wife usually watches Aussie rules on Sunday afternoons and I write in my study. I often go downstairs to make a cup-of-coffee and have a snack in the late afternoon. I see how she is doing; I wash a few dishes and have a break from my writing and reading. As I walked across the lounge-room on these 3 occasions, these 3 Sunday afternoons, I chanced upon these ABC1 half hour programs entitled: The Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Revolutionaries.(1) I did not get to see all of them during what were essentially chance-encounters, but my whistle was whetted and the result is this prose-poem.-Ron Price with thanks to (1)ABC1, 4:30 to 5:00 p.m., 19 June to 10 July 2011; and Desperate Romantics, a six-part drama, follows on BBC Two in July 2011.

    The name John Ruskin caught my ear
    as this focus on individual artists doing
    their own thing, their own ideas and….
    methods of depiction with freedom and
    responsibility being inseparable and the
    emphasis on the spiritual nature-character
    of art---and all of this taking place in those
    transforming 1840s…….That was a decade,
    mirabile dictu.(1) I will not list all the events
    of that incredible decade; it is not surprising
    that this art movement had its start especially
    in 1848 (2) the year of European revolutions.

    What, for some, was the main event, hardly known,
    in Tabarsi when 313 men withstood forces of 1000s
    of the Shah’s men under the black standard----was
    unbeknownst to that wider-western-world(3), & it is
    still mostly, mostly unknown; as is the pre-Raphaelite
    movement: “such is life,” as that Australian outlaw....
    Ned Kelly once said in 1880 on his way to the gallows.

    (1) A Latin expression I first came across while studying Latin in high school: 1958 to 1963, and meaning ‘marvellous to relate.’

    (2) Franny Moyle, “Pre-Raphaelite art: the paintings that obsessed the Victorians,” The Telegraph, 3 July 2011. Go to the following link for this excellent article:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/a...ictorians.html

    (3) Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, Wilmette, Illinois, Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1974(1932).

    Ron Price
    19 June 2011 to 3 July 2011

    Last edited by Elwell; July 5th, 2011 at 11:13 AM. Reason: fixed link
    married for 47 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, a writer and editor for 15, and a Baha'i for 55(in 2014).
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    Quote Originally Posted by RonPrice View Post
    (2) Franny Moyle, “Pre-Raphaelite art: the paintings that obsessed the Victorians,” The Telegraph, 3 July 2011. Go to the following link for this excellent article:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/a...ictorians.html
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    The Pre-Raphaelites

    Broken link or not, I am a huge fan of the pre-Raphaelites. I think they were pretty much the Victorian equivalent of fantasy art.

    Edit after broken link has been fixed: Nice article, and indeed just about time that we look at the work of this group of artists again. Interesting that the very first painting the article notes is precisely the one I happened to pick to attach!

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    Last edited by blogmatix; July 5th, 2011 at 11:37 AM.
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    Fixed the link.


    Tristan Elwell
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    Geek factoid :
    technically speaking Waterhouse is not a pre-Raphaelite. Great painter though, and that is one of my favorite paintings.

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    I've allways liked that painting... But when I saw it in real life I felt a bit underwhelmed, for some reason. Maybe it was hanging too close to Millais Ophelia...

    "I've got ham, but I'm not a hamster"

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    I hate to admit it, but his Lady of Shallott never did much for me... I can't help thinking of it as "Lady stuck in a canoe on a bad hair day." (I think it's her expression... and the drab landscape...) His Mermaid fascinated me as a kid, though.

    I think these two might be the Waterhouse paintings that really made me say "oh hey, this guy is pretty cool" and left me wanting to find more of his stuff:

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    Geek factoid :
    technically speaking Waterhouse is not a pre-Raphaelite. Great painter though, and that is one of my favorite paintings.
    Indeed, but he was so influenced by them that there is little difference. The pre-Raphaelites were, as far as I know, never a particularly coherent movement anyway. Like the term "fugue" in music, it seems to me to be more a style or an approach than a very specific thing.

    That article RonPrice linked to note an interesting thing. I always thought the pre-Raphaelites were influenced by the impressionists to do such outrageous things as painting out of doors. But it turns out they were actually first to do it.

    If memory serves, they were also influenced by early Netherlandish art, such as Van der Weyden, which I also happen to be a big fan of. In both groups of artists you get the same almost obsessive concern with minute detail, the same rich colouration and the same focus on personal observation rather than theory. One could almost imagine that the attached painting ("Visitation," by Rogier van der Weyden) could have been done in Victorian England.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blogmatix View Post
    Indeed, but he was so influenced by them that there is little difference. The pre-Raphaelites were, as far as I know, never a particularly coherent movement anyway. Like the term "fugue" in music, it seems to me to be more a style or an approach than a very specific thing.
    The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood proper certainly was a coherent movement, and was a very specific thing. Waterhouse gets lumped in as a pre-raph because of his penchant for medieval imagery, but technically/stylistically he couldn't be farther from first-generation PRB aesthetic theory. In fact, one common contemporary criticism of Waterhouse was that his style was too "French" (i.e. loose, impressionist).


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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood proper certainly was a coherent movement, and was a very specific thing.
    According to the Wiki article, these were their principles:

    The Brotherhood's early doctrines were expressed in four declarations:
    to have genuine ideas to express
    to study Nature attentively, so as to know how to express them
    to sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parodying and learned by rote
    most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues


    Of these, only the second has any real meaning. Also from the Wiki article:

    These principles are deliberately non-dogmatic, since the Brotherhood wished to emphasise the personal responsibility of individual artists to determine their own ideas and methods of depiction.

    What's more, the coherent phase of the movement lasted only a few years before they disbanded.

    In other words, a short-lived movement dedicated to no very particular thing other than close observation of nature, with its founding principles deliberately phrased to allow individual artists to basically do as they please. That hardly strikes me as a very specific or coherent kind of movement, but its influence did last for decades.

    It is true that initially they all produced a very similar sort of art. Perhaps we use the term pre-Raphaelite too loosely today, to refer to anything that's sort of Victorian-medieval looking. And perhaps one should not refer to Waterhouse as pre-Raphaelite at all, considering he was born only a year after the original movement was founded.

    On the other hand, if we insist on using the term only for the original movement, then that reduces the entire movement to something so small as to be hardly worth mentioning, which would not be an accurate reflection of how influential the movement turned out to be.

    Waterhouse gets lumped in as a pre-raph because of his penchant for medieval imagery, but technically/stylistically he couldn't be farther from first-generation PRB aesthetic theory. In fact, one common contemporary criticism of Waterhouse was that his style was too "French" (i.e. loose, impressionist).
    True, and I would guess he was indeed influenced by the impressionists. However, from the perspective of a 21st century viewer, his work seems far more pre-Raphaelite than impressionist. At least to my eyes.

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    Check this out. Pretty good.

    Here


    Any documentary on the Pre Raphaelites that can use music from the Clash is going to be good.

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    This thread has five images attached to it, none of which is a painting by a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Let me help you with that.

    Millais
    The Pre-Raphaelites

    The Pre-Raphaelites

    The Pre-Raphaelites

    Hunt
    The Pre-Raphaelites

    The Pre-Raphaelites

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    Thanks Serpian. Waterhouse will go on being considered 'Pre-Raphaelite' though, as he fits the preconception of what that actually means, despite, as Elwell says, the inaccuracy of that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Serpian View Post
    This thread has five images attached to it, none of which is a painting by a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Let me help you with that.
    True, but that sort of illustrates just how big the movement's influence was, despite the small number of original members and the brevity of its existence. One should really rather talk of pre-Raphaelite-influenced art when referring to anyone outside the original brotherhood, but jeez, then you'd have to use that long, difficult-to-type term for just about every British artist from 1850-1910. ;-)

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  17. #14
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    ...They usually get lumped together under "Aesthetic" or possibly "Arts and Crafts" depending on who it is.

    Some of them get lumped in with "Symbolism" or "Art Nouveau" (oh what handy catch-all terms those are...)

    I suppose you could call them Post-Pre-Raphaelites and confuse everybody.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blogmatix View Post
    True, but that sort of illustrates just how big the movement's influence was, despite the small number of original members and the brevity of its existence. One should really rather talk of pre-Raphaelite-influenced art when referring to anyone outside the original brotherhood, but jeez, then you'd have to use that long, difficult-to-type term for just about every British artist from 1850-1910. ;-)
    Maybe, but remember the name 'Pre-Raphaelite' is fairly contrived in the first place, but this is becoming a somewhat semantic discussion. I love Waterhouse, but if the PRB had political, social and aesthetic goals, then Waterhouse distilled it to a much simpler and palatable message. He was influenced by 'some' of their aesthetic, no doubt, but not their aims or social commentary. Earlier Waterhouse was more interesting, thematically, but he was a 'Victorian' painter not a Pre-Raph. The only artist who stuck to the PRB goal was Holman Hunt, and he is often the one PR forgotten about. Look at The Scapegoat (above), Light of the World, The Shadow of Death. They don't fit with the popular 'chocolate box' perception of the PRB, but they are as much Pre-Raph as Ophelia, or The Lady of Shalott. Hunt is not as popular today in a secular 'art' world because he took much more inspiration from religion, ie: Christianity, than the other original two members of the PRB, Millais and Rossetti.

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    People often talk about "first generation Pre-Raphaelite" (the PRB proper and their associates), "second generation Pre-Raphaelite" (Burne-Jones those influenced by him and Rosetti), and "third generation Pre-Raphaelite" (academic painters who used Pre-Raphaelite subject matter like Waterhouse and Dicksee).


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    Wasn't Rosetti first-generation PRB for a while? Last I checked, he was one of the founders of the official "Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood" (the "brotherhood" business was supposedly his idea)... Though he drifted away from it later, along with most of the others. That's where it gets confusing.

    (I've always liked Rosetti's explanation of the meaning behind the mysterious letters "PRB" that the Brotherhood put on their pictures... He told people they stood for "Penis Rather Better"...) (That is SO Rosetti.)

    Last edited by QueenGwenevere; July 13th, 2011 at 04:09 PM. Reason: typo
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    Yes, Rosetti was a PRB member, but he did most of his painting after the Brotherhood dissolved. His style of imaginative, rather than closely observational, painting was a primary influence on Burne-Jones and the other second-gen pre-raphs, much more so than Millias or Hunt.


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    The Pre-Raphaelites

    Here's a better reproduction of Millais' Ophelia.

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    Don't forget the American Pre-Raphaelites; The founder Thomas Charles Farrer , Charles Herbert Moore, Henry Roderick Newman, John William Hill, John Henry Hill, Robert J. Pattison and probably the most famous of the group William Trost Richards.

    Last edited by dpaint; July 13th, 2011 at 02:50 PM.
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    There is an exhibition on presently at the Victoria & Albert museum in London called 'The Cult of Beauty'. It includes 'The Golden Stair' by Burne Jones, but I think it counts more as 'aesthetic movement', a bit later than his PRB phase. The expo finishes on the 17th of July, so you will have to be quick...http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibit...ult-of-beauty/

    The Pre-Raphaelites

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    I went to the above mentioned expo today, and it was fantastic, well worth the effort. I think I prefer the later 'art for arts sake' paintings over the early preraphaelite pieces, which can be a bit earnest, preachy and over-wrought.

    Some of the highlights:

    Whistler 'Symphony in White # 1'
    The Pre-Raphaelites (They had all three)

    Thomas Armstrong, 'The Hay Field'
    The Pre-Raphaelites

    Burne-Jones, 'Beguiling of Merlin'
    The Pre-Raphaelites

    Burne-Jones 'Laus Veneris' (Much more impressive in the flesh than in reproduction, the detail is stunning)
    The Pre-Raphaelites

    Lord Leighton, 'Bath of Psyche'
    The Pre-Raphaelites

    Albert Moore 'Midsummer'
    The Pre-Raphaelites

    Harry Bates, 'Mors Janua Vitae' (This was a damned impressive thing in real life, can't find a photo that nearly does it justice. It's made of bronze, ivory and mother of pearl.)
    The Pre-Raphaelites

    Dante Gabriel Rossetti: 'The Day Dream'

    The Pre-Raphaelites

    Albert Gilbert, 'Perseus Arming'.
    The Pre-Raphaelites

    And much more besides.

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    Looks like a great show.


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    Anybody who thinks that Millet's Ophelia or Waterhouse's Lady of Shallott look like Quattrocento artworks has a sea sponge for a bean.

    At least Icarus tried!


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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    Anybody who thinks that Millet's Ophelia or Waterhouse's Lady of Shallott look like Quattrocento artworks has a sea sponge for a bean.
    Waterhouse was a romantic classicist who happened to like medieval themes. He was not 'the modern Preraphaelite', contrary to the title of a recent exhibition. He seems to have a debt to Titian, which not many seem to pick up on... There are the same luminous skin tones and the same relatively loose handling of paint while still making a realistic image. It is not overly detailed (fiddly-twiddly, to use the technical term) and not hard-edged, unlike the medieval and early-renaissance painting.

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    Oh arse, only two days to go for the exhibition. I won't make it! Oh well, I'll go and drown my sorrows at the Lady Lever Gallery.

    Best gallery I've been to recently was the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. After visiting the recent exhibition in Dulwich, actually seeing the art on his home turf was illuminating!

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    All art is of it's own time, even when it tries to consciously imitate the past. That's why forgeries become easier to spot with age.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    All art is of it's own time, even when it tries to consciously imitate the past. That's why forgeries become easier to spot with age.
    Speaking of forgeries, if people in the US can find a way of seeing this, it was a very interesting series about the state of forgery in the art world, 'Fake or Fortune'. It's iPlayer so usually only viewable in the UK, but maybe someone knows a canny way around it. This episode was about Han van Meegeren and they discussed the use of 'bakelite' to age paint.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode..._Van_Meegeren/

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    Dang, I wish I was in the UK right now, I'd absolutely rush to that show...

    I did get to see a bunch of those in traveling exhibits here (the Burne-Joneses, the Whistler, and the Leighton...) Still. Would like to see them again, plus the ones I haven't seen. (I wish I could have seen the V&A show on the Russian Ballet, too.) Why is the V&A so cool and why does it have to be so far away, dang it...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aly Fell View Post
    This episode was about Han van Meegeren and they discussed the use of 'bakelite' to age paint.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode..._Van_Meegeren/
    I highly recommend Jonathan Lopez's The Man Who Made Vermeers for those interested in the Van Meegeren story. It strips away much of the romanticism that accumulated around him since even before his trial.


    Tristan Elwell
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