Reader's Encyclopedia

Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

A group of artists and poets formed in London in 1848, originally consisting of Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Their endorsement of the detailed and idealized depiction of nature in early Italian painting led them to adopt the title of Pre-Raphaelites, and to stress their rejection of academicism, which they traced to Raphael and the High Renaissance. The Brotherhood's publication, The Germ, was started in 1850 under the editorship of Rossetti's brother, William Michael, but only four numbers were issued. Its aim was "to enforce and encourage an entire adherence to the simplicity of nature," a principle they applied to the writing of poetry as well as painting.

The artists in the Brotherhood painted scenes of the childhood of Jesus and the Virgin and represented contemporary scenes with a moral message; as a whole, the group had a strongly religious and moralizing cast. The poetry of the Brotherhood -- most notably that of Christina Rossetti -- tended to treat medieval or mystical themes in a sensuous, symbolic narrative verse, rich in pictorial detail. The group broke up in 1854 but enjoyed a brief revival through the support of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones in 1856 at Oxford.

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