Tate Britain will pay homage to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in a major exhibition running from 12 September 2012 to 13 January 2013. This exhibition, called Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde, is launched nearly three decades after a previous Pre-Raphaelite exhibition, held when the museum was still known as the Tate Gallery.
This Brotherhood of young artists – painters, sculptors, poets, designers – bemoaned the stagnation in the works of their contemporaries and their obsession with meticulous copying of the classics that ignored art’s purpose: making a statement.
John Ruskin, a powerful critic and great ally of the Brotherhood, did much to cement their legacy in the world of art history. He once declared that Pre-Raphaelite doctrine stood against art only for the sake of aesthetic pleasures – beauty, he said, could only ever be subordinate to the message within a work of art.
And send a message they did. Their use of photographic realism in Christian scenes enraged critics, including Charles Dickens. And Pre-Raphaelite women, especially those painted by Rossetti, were often derided for their ‘fleshy’ nature.
It wasn’t all about grandiose stabs at orthodoxy. Their youthful vigour and passion for playful details make Pre-Raphaelite works favourites with the public to this day.
The original Brotherhood was a relatively small group who worked for a short time as “brethren”, but the movement they started, the ideals they championed and the artistic styles they advocated reached far and wide in Britain and beyond. Indeed, fans of the Pre-Raphaelite movement can be found around the world.
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