Worcester Sunday Telegram
Art of the Pre-Raphaelitesby Elizabeth Prettejohn
Calling themselves the
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.
Worcester Sunday Telegram
Who were the Pre-Raphaelites, and what was their art like? Prettejohn, associate senior lecturer in Art History at the University of Plymouth, addresses these questions with sensitivity, careful attention, and scholarly expertise in this gorgeous book.
Millais and his friends and fellow painters, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt, were frustrated with popular taste in painting, and with the academic precepts of the art world in 1840s London. According to Hunt, they sought to "perfectly revolutionisze [sic] taste." Toward that end, they formed the "Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood" with a sculptor and three other painters. These men declared allegiance to the style of art of the period preceding the High Renaissance-roughly before 1500-a style considered "primitive" in contrast to Raphael's maturity.
Prettejohn writes: "Pre-Raphaelite painting technique was simultaneously very old, in its attempted return to the methods of the first oil painters, and utterly novel, since those methods were `scientifically' examined for the first time."
Other painters soon adopted the style. Artists without standard training, especially women, who were denied entrance to art schools, found advantages in the Brotherhood's rejection of academia.
These painters portrayed people and nature with perfect truthfulness, rendering every square inch of the canvas in exacting detail, rather than clearly portraying principal forms in the foreground with shadowed, indistinct backgrounds. In Hunt's Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus, every blade of grass is articulated; each separate link in the hero's chain mail can be counted; one can even discern the expressions on faces in the distance.
Prettejohn examines this art with the minute attention one must pay to each painting in order to absorb all those details. She analyzes the style's visual aesthetic, its place in the history of art and society, and its portrayal of women. She draws on-and graciously acknowledges-a wide body of scholarly work. The book is beautifully laid out, with vivid color plates clearly marked and juxtaposed conveniently with the text that refers to them.
The author argues that Pre-Raphaelite art requires long, close scrutiny. Her book equally merits lingering and absorbing attention. (December)
Times Literary Supplement
Susan P. Casteras
"Comprehensively illustrated, clearly written and introduces the reader to many invigorating new ideas."Times Literary Supplement
"[Prettejohn] 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 piqu art book reader's interest, perhaps. . . the luscious reproductions of virtually all the famous and many lesser known but entrancing Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces will."Booklist
"Who were the Pre-Raphaelites, and what was their art like? Prettejohn . . . addresses these questions with sensitivity, careful attention, and scholarly expertise in this gorgeous book . . . The author argues that Pre-Raphaelite art requires long, close scrutiny. Her book equally merits lingering and absorbing attention."Karen McCarthy, ForeWord
"A valuable study that 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."Choice
"Prettejohn has not only brought together so many of this time period's masterpieces, but has also provided the history and means with which to realize the full impact of these paintings. . . . If reading about art doesn't sound too exhilarating, this book will spark interest just from a momentary view of the enchanting paintings inside."Felice Ballester, Bloomsbury Review
"Prettejohn's study is well-written, her research and knowledge of the period are commendable, and many of her arguments have merit and originality. . . This book goes a long way in offering some fresh visions of a favorite subject."Susan P. Casteras, Pre-Raphaelite Studies
- Tate Publishing, Limited
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- Product dimensions:
- 8.50(w) x 10.87(h) x 1.00(d)
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