Industrial Revolution

Pre Raphaelites
Love-lorn teenagers drag art back to the future

Pre Raphaelites, Industrial Revolution

Leave it to a bunch of teenagers to decide that Raphael ruined art. An emo-boys-club-turned-art-movement, the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood began in 1848 in the home of pouty young painter John Everett Millais, or more accurately, his parent’s house. Millais was a student at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, where he met the 20 year old poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the painter William Holman Hunt. The three friends were romantic idealists in the way that many art students tend to be. For them, art was at its most pure when it came from the heart—before all that show-offy Mannerism kicked off at the end of the High Renaissance.

To the Pre Raphaelites, the bright colors, crisp lines, honorable men and demure women of late medieval and early renaissance art was the most sincere and noble form of painting. Their imperative was moral: to throw back to a peaceful time before the industrialization and social unrest of 1800s Europe. In their early meetings, the group laid out four principles to guide them in a quest to bring Romanticism back to art. The principles were:

  • to have genuine ideas to express;
  • to study Nature attentively, so as to know how to express them;
  • 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; and
  • most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues.

So why does history remember the preoccupation of a few emotional art students? Because they were fantastic at public relations. Starting in 1849, all three artists showed their work at the Royal Academy, and signed their paintings with the initials PRB. The next year they started a magazine called The Germ, which was a collection of mostly terrible, lovelorn poetry. But print sticks around, and you can still read their musings on death, loneliness and beauty. Their exposure, if not always positive, grew faster than they were ready for. The famous author Charles Dickens hated their work, and blasted Millais’ painting ‘Christ in the House of His Parents’ for being blasphemous and ugly. And after his initial praise, the PRB lost the support of noted art critic John Ruskin after Millais effectively stole Ruskin’s wife.

Like a band that make it big before it’s ready for fame, the PRB effectively disbanded by 1853. But their dreamy, lovelorn vibe struck a chord, and artists like Edward Burne-Jones and Thomas Woolner continued the style, eventually influencing Gustave Moreau and the soon-to-be Symbolist movement.


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Reed Enger, "Pre Raphaelites, Love-lorn teenagers drag art back to the future," in Obelisk Art History, Published March 18, 2015; last modified November 08, 2022,

Read More
The Germ, Vol.2, Pre Raphaelites

The Germ, Vol.2 Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Thomas Woolner,

Self Portrait, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Self Portrait Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1847

Isabella, John Everett Millais

Isabella John Everett Millais, 1849

The Childhood of Mary Virgin, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The Childhood of Mary Virgin Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1849

Christ in the House of His Parents, John Everett Millais

Christ in the House of His Parents John Everett Millais, 1849 – 1850

The Annunciation, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The Annunciation Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1850

The Germ, Vol.1, Pre Raphaelites

The Germ, Vol.1 Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Thomas Woolner, 1850

A Huguenot on St Bartholomew's Day, John Everett Millais

A Huguenot on St Bartholomew's Day John Everett Millais, 1852

Ophelia, John Everett Millais

Ophelia John Everett Millais, 1851 – 1852

The Awakening Conscience, William Holman Hunt

The Awakening Conscience William Holman Hunt, 1853

The Flight of Madeline and Porphyro, William Holman Hunt

The Flight of Madeline and Porphyro William Holman Hunt, 1847 – 1857

Babylon hath been a golden cup, Simeon Solomon

Babylon hath been a golden cup Simeon Solomon, 1859

Self-Portrait, Simeon Solomon

Self-Portrait Simeon Solomon, 1859

Theseus and the Minotaur, Edward Burne-Jones

Theseus and the Minotaur Edward Burne-Jones, 1861

Angel of the Resurrection: Cartoon for Stained Glass, William Morris

Angel of the Resurrection: Cartoon for Stained Glass William Morris, 1862

Guinevere and Iseult: Cartoon for Stained Glass, William Morris

Guinevere and Iseult: Cartoon for Stained Glass William Morris, 1862

Dante’s First Meeting with Beatrice, Simeon Solomon

Dante’s First Meeting with Beatrice Simeon Solomon, 1859 – 1863

The Merciful Knight, Edward Burne-Jones

The Merciful Knight Edward Burne-Jones, 1863

A young female musician, Emma Sandys

A young female musician Emma Sandys, 1864

Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene, Simeon Solomon

Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene Simeon Solomon, 1864

Elaine, Emma Sandys

Elaine Emma Sandys, 1862 – 1865

Rosabelle, Emma Sandys

Rosabelle Emma Sandys, 1865

Il Dolce far Niente, William Holman Hunt

Il Dolce far Niente William Holman Hunt, 1866

A Prelude by Bach, Simeon Solomon

A Prelude by Bach Simeon Solomon, 1868

Reverie, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Reverie Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1868

Venus Verticordia, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Venus Verticordia Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1863 – 1868

Bianca, William Holman Hunt

Bianca William Holman Hunt, 1868 – 1869

Pastoral Lovers, Simeon Solomon

Pastoral Lovers Simeon Solomon, 1869

Phyllis and Demophoon, Edward Burne-Jones

Phyllis and Demophoon Edward Burne-Jones, 1870

Rabbi Carrying the Law, Simeon Solomon

Rabbi Carrying the Law Simeon Solomon, 1871

The Bower Meadow, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The Bower Meadow Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1872

Lady Lilith, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Lady Lilith Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1866 – 1873

Mary Emma Jones, Emma Sandys

Mary Emma Jones Emma Sandys, 1874

Sancta Lilias, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Sancta Lilias Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1874

The angel with the serpent, Evelyn De Morgan

The angel with the serpent Evelyn De Morgan, 1870 – 1875

The Beguiling of Merlin, Edward Burne-Jones

The Beguiling of Merlin Edward Burne-Jones, 1872 – 1877

The Love Song, Edward Burne-Jones

The Love Song Edward Burne-Jones, 1868 – 1877

Night and Sleep, Evelyn De Morgan

Night and Sleep Evelyn De Morgan, 1878

Pygmalion and the Image — The Godhead Fires, Edward Burne-Jones

Pygmalion and the Image — The Godhead Fires Edward Burne-Jones, 1878

Pygmalion and the Image — The Heart Desires, Edward Burne-Jones

Pygmalion and the Image — The Heart Desires Edward Burne-Jones, 1878

The Day Dream (Study), Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The Day Dream (Study) Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1878

Fiammetta Singing, Marie Spartali Stillman

Fiammetta Singing Marie Spartali Stillman, 1879

The Annunciation, Edward Burne-Jones

The Annunciation Edward Burne-Jones, 1879

The Golden Stairs, Edward Burne-Jones

The Golden Stairs Edward Burne-Jones, 1876 – 1880

Portrait of Lady Frances Balfour, Edward Burne-Jones

Portrait of Lady Frances Balfour Edward Burne-Jones, 1881

The Angel of Death, Evelyn De Morgan

The Angel of Death Evelyn De Morgan, 1881

Proserpine, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Proserpine Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1882

Portrait of Georgiana Burne Jones, Edward Burne-Jones

Portrait of Georgiana Burne Jones Edward Burne-Jones, 1883

The Wheel of Fortune, Edward Burne-Jones

The Wheel of Fortune Edward Burne-Jones, 1883

King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid, Edward Burne-Jones

King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid Edward Burne-Jones, 1880 – 1884

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Realism, Industrial Revolution


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