Dates: 1848-1860

Origin: United Kingdom

Key Artists: John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

A secret society of young artists (and one writer) founded in London in 1848. The name Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood referred to their opposition to Royal Academy’s promotion of Renaissance master Raphael as an ideal artist. In revolt, they were also against the triviality of the immensely popular genre painting of the time. They were inspired by theories of John Ruskin who urged artists to ‘go to nature’. They believed in an art of serious subjects treated with maximum realism. Principal themes were initially religious, then used subjects from literature and poetry, mostly dealing with love and death. They also explored modern social problems.

“Pre-Raphaelite.” 12 March 2010. <;

The group’s intention was to reform art by rejecting what they considered to be the mechanistic approach first adopted by the Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo. They believed that the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art. Hence the name “Pre-Raphaelite”. In particular, they objected to the influence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the founder of the English Royal Academy of Arts. They called him “Sir Sloshua”, believing that his broad technique was a sloppy and formulaic form of academic Mannerism. In contrast, they wanted to return to the abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art. The Pre-Raphaelites have been considered the first avant-garde movement in art, though they have also been denied that status, because they continued to accept both the concepts of history painting and of mimesis, or imitation of nature, as central to the purpose of art. However, the Pre-Raphaelites undoubtedly defined themselves as a reform-movement, created a distinct name for their form of art, and published a periodical, The Germ, to promote their ideas. Their debates were recorded in the Pre-Raphaelite Journal.

Wikipedia contributors. “Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 Feb. 2010. Web. 12 Mar. 2010. <;

Dante Gabriel Rossetti


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