Pre-Raphaelites. In 1848 in England, a group of young painters got together and decided that they had their own idea of what a painting should be. Thus, in rebellion to The Royal Academy, they formed this secret society called The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB).

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (age 20) led the group that included Sir John Everett Millais (19), and William Holman Hunt (21).  Later, many artists followed the style set by the Pre-Raphaelites although they were not members of the brotherhood. Some of those artists who gained Pre-Raphaelite popularity are Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, Frederic Lord Leighton, Ford Madox Brown, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, and John William Waterhouse.

The Pre-Raphaelites, being young, talented, and having many ideas of their own, felt stifled by the rigidity of the Royal Academy's idea of what tasteful, beautiful art should be. The PRB held the haughty belief that the only true great art came from before the 16th century Italian painter, Raphael (hence the society's name). Raphael represented High Renaissance, a time when painters, instead of letting their subjects dictate their qualities to the artist, would manipulate the subject into their own ideal of beauty. Thus, all realism was lost. The PRB, with full spirit, denounced this art of idealization, and led the way to produce works based on real landscapes and real models, and paid intense attention to accuracy of detail and color.

Instead of painting the typical still-lifes, landscapes and seascapes, they drew their subject matters from medieval tales, bible stories, classical mythology, and nature. Using bright colors on a white background, the artists were able to achieve great depth and brilliance.

"Ophelia" (1851-52) Sir John Everett Millais

Related Term: Painting Art Styles and Schools.

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