Pre-Raphaelites – Nature and Beauty

Great treat for Art lovers at Tate Britain. Many paintings were already on display before at different galleries, however this time the exhibition puts together the work of young students Pre-Raphaelites as an avant-garde movement. They called themselves PRB – Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood-  and you can find this initials in many paintings, the movement was founded in 1848 and they coincided almost exactly with the long reign of Queen Victoria. They admired the spirituality and simplicity of medieval art, and disliked the influence that Raphael had had on art for centuries.

The exhibition was divided into seven rooms. My favourites were:


Pre-Raphaelites successfully developed their own novel and precise method of transcribing the natural world in oil paint, based on close looking and sustained engagement with the motif. Vivid natural imagery appears in Pre-Raphaelite subjects from Shakespeare, John Ruskin and in imagined scenes of the past reconfigured in the present. 

Being on the exhibitions and seeing the paintings yourself you can find out the true story behind the paintings, for example in Ophelia, John Everett Millais used real model Elizabeth Siddal to pose for him in a bath and after spending long hours in the bath, she got an awful cold.

John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1851-2
(It’s a fantastic truth to nature, hyper realism; the paining shows the death of Ophelia, from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet; mad with grief after her father was killed, Ophelia was supposed to have fallen into stream while picking flowers and drowned)

Ford Madox Brown, An English Autumn Afternoon, Hampstead – Scenery in 1853, 1852-5
(A view from the Hampstead window, looking at London city)

Charles Allston Collins, May, in the Regent’s Park, 1851
(Regent’s Park- yes! May- yes!)

John Brett, Val d’Aosta, 1851
(you need a magnifying glass to see the real beauty of nature in this painting!! Amazing!)



Woman is a beauty and many artists know that very well.

Beauty came to be valued more highly than truth, as Pre-Raphaelitism slowly metamorphosed into the Aesthetic movement. The female face and body became the most important subject for them. 

My favourites:

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Beata Beatrix, 1864-70

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Blue Bower, 1865
(great contrast of deep green and deep blue colours, you can nearly hear the music of Japanese Koto instrument)


Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Beloved (The Bride), 1865-66
(part of this painting you can even find when you leave the Pimlico Tube Station on the wall)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Lady Lilith, 1868
(mythical first wife of Adam, before he met Eva; femme fatale, she personifies a fantastical figure of violence, danger and allure)

John Everett Millais, Sophie Gray, 1857

Paintings from other rooms, for me –  more Beauty:

John Everett Millais, Mariana, 1851

Arthur Hughes, April Love, 1855-6
(inspired by Alfred Tennyson’s “The Miller’s Daughter”:

Love is hurt with jar and fret.
Love is made a vague regret.
Eyes with idle tears are wet.
Idle habit links us yet.
What is love for we forget:
Ah, no! No! )

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Astarte Syriaca, 1877

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, A vision of Fiammetta, 1878

I hope you enjoyed.

You can see more for yourself:


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