Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde

Ophelia by John Everett Millais

Now that I’m here in London for a while, I finally got a chance to see the extensive Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at Tate Britain, entitled Pre-Raphaelites, Victorian Avant-Garde. Admittedly, I’ve been a fan since I was a teenager but even so, my over-riding thought was, “Must come again” as the galleries were teeming with visitors on the Saturday afternoon that I went. I saw my favorite John Everett Millais painting, “Ophelia”  “in person” for the first time and felt quite overwhelmed by the attention to detail, the vibrant quality of the color and the emotional connection it engenders.


The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was formed in London in 1848 as a way to express the artists’ dissatisfaction with the drawing style being advocated by the Royal Academy Schools.  For them, it was too mechanical. The Brotherhood was initially made up of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman-Hunt and John Everett Millais. They were later joined by the likes of Edward Burne-Jones, John Ruskin, Edward Burne-Jones, Frederick Sandys, Simeon Solomon, Ford Madox Brown and William Morris. Together they formed Britain’s first modern art movement.


The Lady of Shallot: John William Waterhouse


Mariana: John Everett Millais


Last year American Vogue published an editorial inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites. Actress Saoirse Ronan starred in The Cult of Beauty , photographed by Steven Meisel and styled by the incomparable Grace Coddington. Blogger, Kate Challis of Urban Kaleidoscope, cleverly matched the photographs to the paintings that inspired them.






Another fashion editorial inspired by the Pre-Raphelites from The Telegraph







The BBC series, Desperate Romantics, explored the relationships between the painters and the women in their lives, including their wives, models and muses including the unfortunate Lizzie Siddal who famously contracted pneumonia by lying in a bath for months sitting for Millais’ art-world-shattering painting “Ophelia”


Amy Manson as Lizzie Siddal


There has also been a focus recently on the Pre-Raphaelite ideals of beauty, including wild red hair a la Lizzie Siddal. Victor & Rolf showed “Pre-Raphaelite” hair for Spring 2013. Other great Pre-Raphaelite muses include Lily Cole, Florence Welch and Grace Coddington.


Victor & Rolf Spring 13


Florence Welch


Grace Coddington


Lily Cole


Lily Cole


Lady Lilith: Dante Gabrielle Rossetti


Saturday, November 17, 2012 · Categories: Art and PhotographyTrend AnalysisFashionFashion Blogs
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