Cover image for The art of the Pre-Raphaelites
The art of the Pre-Raphaelites
Prettejohn, Elizabeth.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
304 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 29 cm
Format :


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ND467.5.P7 P77 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

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Though always controversial in art circles, the Pre-Raphaelites have also always been extremely popular with museum goers. This accessible new study provides the most comprehensive view of the movement to date. It shows us why, a century and a half later, Pre-Raphaelite art retains its power to fascinate, haunt, and often shock its viewers.

Calling themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, and William Holman Hunt produced a statement of ideas that revolutionized art practice in Victorian England. Critical of the Royal Academy's formulaic works, these painters believed that painting had been misdirected since Raphael. They and the artists who joined with them, including William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, and Frederick George Stephens, created bright works representing nature and literary themes in fresh detail and color. Considered heretical by many and frequently admonished for a lack of grace in composition the group disbanded after only a few years. Yet its artists and ideals remained influential; its works, greatly admired.

In this richly illustrated book, Elizabeth Prettejohn raises new and provocative questions about the group's social and artistic identity. Was it the first avant-garde movement in modern art? What role did women play in the Pre-Raphaelite fraternity? How did relationships between the artists and models affect the paintings? The author also analyzes technique, pinning down the distinctive characteristics of these painters and evaluating the degree to which a group style existed. And she considers how Pre-Raphaelite art responded to and commented on its time and place a world characterized by religious and political controversy, new scientific concern for precise observation, the emergence of psychology, and changing attitudes toward sexuality and women.

The first major publication on the Pre-Raphaelite movement in more than fifteen years, this exquisite volume incorporates the swell of recent research into a comprehensive, up-to-date survey. It comprises well over two hundred color reproductions, including works that are immediately recognizable as Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces, as well as lesser-known paintings that expand our appreciation of this significant artistic departure.

Author Notes

Elizabeth Prettejohn lectures at the University of Plymouth and is the author of several books on nineteenth-century art, including Rossetti and his Circle and Interpreting Sargent.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

As Prettejohn notes, so much has been written on those mid-nineteenth-century English art radicals, the Pre-Raphaelites, that some bookstores have separate sections to accommodate all the tomes about them. How could anything exciting remain to be said about them? Well, for many art lovers, what Prettejohn says will be pretty intriguing. She takes the extreme reactions to Pre-Raphaelite painting, then and now, seriously; looks again and more thoroughly at the meticulous realism, even lighting, clashing colors, and multiple foci in their paintings; and suggests a new story about the development of modern art, from Pre-Raphaelitism to symbolism to surrealism to pop art to postmodernism. If that doesn't pique art book readers' interest, perhaps Prettejohn's attention to the female Pre-Raphaelites, or her consideration of gender and sexuality in Pre-Raphaelite art, or the luscious reproductions of virtually all the famous and many lesser-known but entrancing Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces will. Art libraries, consider this book essential. --Ray Olson

Library Journal Review

Dante Garbriel Rosetti, William Holman Hunt, Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, John Everett Milais, and the other men and women belonging to the Pre-Raphaelite movement would probably be surprised at the staying power of their art and thoughts. There are countless studies of the movement, with some bookstores devoting whole shelves to it. In this work, which had its seeds in the 1998 Burne-Jones exhibit and exhibit at London's Tate Gallery in 1984 that was the largest ever of Pre-Raphaelite works, Prettejohn (art history, Univ. of Plymouth) has assembled the first combined study of these artists to appear in 15 years. There have been books on the Brotherhood, individual artists, and the seldom-mentioned Sisterhood but not the combined, thoroughgoing overview of their lives, thoughts, and, most of all, techniques that Prettejohn accomplishes here. Prettejohn presents complete images and then studies fragments to reveal the technique and small detail. She also shows how these artists revolutionized Victorian art and how they were affected by changes in science, psychiatry, and the attitudes toward sexuality and women. Finally, she addresses their impact today, considering whether this was the first avant-garde movement in modern art. Highly recommended.DJoseph Hewgley, Nashville P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Prettejohn (Univ. of Plymouth) aims at "a major reassessment in the ways we look at and think about Pre-Raphaelitism" and, more important, "to finding and describing the qualities that make Pre-Raphaelite visual art compelling to many viewers in the present day." Prettejohn, a university lecturer and author of a previous book on Victorian art, builds on the new scholarship that has appeared since the Tate's landmark Pre-Raphaelite show of 1984 to present a fresh reading of this "brotherhood" of painters. Topics examined include landscape and the human model, technique, 19th-century contexts, gender and sexuality, the role of female artists and models, and ways Pre-Raphaelite painters collaborated to fashion a new aesthetic. Though Prettejohn offers a number of provocative and memorable insights, she is not immune to making exaggerated claims for the significance and influence of her subject. Yet despite its controversial qualities, Art of the Pre-Raphaelites is a valuable study tha t will appeal to art historians and those familiar with this seminal movement in English art. The 200 illustrations (many in detail) are all in excellent color. The bibliography is usefully subdivided by subject. Endnotes; glossary of leading figures. Undergraduates through faculty. W. S. Rodner Tidewater Community College

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgmentsp. 7
Prologuep. 11
Part 1 Stories of Pre-Raphaelitism
Chapter 1 Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhoodp. 17
Chapter 2 Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhoodp. 67
Chapter 3 Pre-Raphaelitismp. 87
Part 2 Studies in Pre-Raphaelitism
Chapter 4 Techniquep. 135
Chapter 5 Pre-Raphaelite Realism: Landscape and the Human Modelp. 165
Chapter 6 Gender and Sexualityp. 207
Chapter 7 Contexts for Pre-Raphaelitismp. 233
Epiloguep. 261
Abbreviations: Illustrations and Frequently Cited Sourcesp. 264
Notesp. 265
Glossary ofNamesp. 278
Chronologyp. 286
Annotated Bibliographyp. 292
Indexp. 300