Friday, October 26, 2007

Randy & the Pre-Raphaelites

I would like to give a shout out to my good friend Randy for introducing me to the Pre-Raphaelites (shortly after I first met him, back in the late 1970s). In addition to being a great musician and shining light in the world of literary criticism, he has a broad awareness and knowledge of visual art.

Like many other worthwhile art movements, the Pre-Raphaelites are pretty much ignored by the mainstream of art history. I took several art history courses, and never once heard mention of them.

The Pre-Raphaelites Brotherhood was founded by in 1848 by a group of young English painters including John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, and William Holman Hunt. Their art was a reaction against the academic painting of that time, which they considered to be unimaginative and pompous. They believed that the Renaissance painter Raphael had had a negative impact on the tradition of academic painting, and looked to artwork prior to the time of Raphel for their inspiration-- hence the name Pre-Raphaelite.

Oftentimes dealing with mythological and moralistic subject matter, the Pre-Raphaelites are largely overlooked by art historians in favor of other mid-nineteenth century artists that are seen as leading towards modernism-- artists such as Courbet and Millet, whose paintings featured common, everyday people, and Turner, whose work is seen as heading towards abstraction.

Over the next few decades, a number of other artists continued to paint in the Pre-Raphaelite tradition. Two of the more notable of these are John William Waterhouse and John Collier.

Like them or not (and I most certainly do), the Pre-Raphaelites are an important group of painters who deserve wider recognition.

Hunt, The Hireling Shepherd, 1851

Hunt, The Awakening Conscience, 1853

Millais, Ophelia, 1852

Rosetti, Helen of Troy, 1863

Rosetti, Venus, 1868

Rosetti, Lilith, 1873

Waterhouse, Lady of Shallot, 1888

Waterhouse, Hylas and the Nymphs, 1896

Collier, Lilith, 1892

Collier, Lady Godiva, 1897

No comments: