Pre-Raphaelites was an art reform movement that emerged in England in 1848. The Pre-Raphaelites were originally an artistic group initiated by three young English painters, Hunt, Rossetti, and Millais. They aimed to change the creative trend of the time against those stylistic painters who veered toward mechanism after the era of Michelangelo and Raphael. The works of the Pre-Raphaelites were mainly in the traditional Realism style, with meticulous technique and fresh colors. The Pre-Raphaelites were opposed to the stereotypes of the Academy, and some of their works have a melancholy mood. The Pre-Raphaelites had an immeasurable influence on later generations, such as Aestheticism, Symbolism, the Vienna Secession, the Art Nouveau movement, the Arts and Crafts movement, and even some contemporary paintings after the 1970s were also influenced by them.
In the middle and late 19th century, the British industrial capitalist economy entered a period of booming development and was in the era of Queen Victoria's "prosperity". The artist society at that time was dominated by the artistic thinking of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, which had always taken Raphael's art as a model and promoted Classicism. At the same time, the Victorian era was popular with the kind of showy, sweet, empty, and shallow artisanal art, which aroused the discontent of many thoughtful and opinionated artists. The young painters of the time, Hunt, Millais, and Rossetti, also found that the works of the early Renaissance were sincere, simple, vivid, and exactly the style of art they aspired to. Therefore, they believed that real art existed before Raphael and tried to save English painting by promoting the art before Raphael. So in 1848, the three of them started a school of painting known as the "Pre-Raphaelites".
From Neglected to Valued
After 1850, due to the emphasis on realism and scientific perspectives, both Hunt and Millet stopped directly imitating medieval art. However, Hunt continued to emphasize the importance of the mind in art, attempting to reconcile faith and science using accurate observation and research while traveling to Israel and Egypt to use biblical stories as subjects for his paintings. In contrast, Millet abandoned the Pre-Raphaelite principles after 1860 in favor of the broad and loose style of Reynolds, the founder of the Royal Academy of Arts. Morris and other artists strongly criticized Millet's change.
The Pre-Raphaelites continued to influence many English painters into the 20th century. Rossetti went on to become a pioneer of European Symbolism. The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in Birmingham, England, houses many world-renowned Pre-Raphaelite paintings, which also greatly influenced the local writer J.R.R. Tolkien, who grew up there. The 20th century saw a massive change in the viewpoint of painters, and due to the development of photography, the purpose of art gradually moved away from reproducing the actual state of affairs. Because the Pre-Raphaelites were primarily concerned with depicting things as realistically as photography, their work was disparaged by many critics, despite their particular focus on detailed depictions of surface patterns. Since the 1960s, however, the Pre-Raphaelites have begun to receive renewed attention, such as in the 1984 exhibition at the Tate in London, which established the Pre-Raphaelites' place in the history of art. In September 2012, the Tate again exhibited Pre-Raphaelite paintings.
The Tate, Victoria and Albert Museum, and Manchester Art Gallery in the United Kingdom have large collections of Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Outside the United Kingdom, the Delaware Art Museum in the United States also has a large collection. The National Trust in many places also has collections of Pre-Raphaelite works. Andrew Lloyd Webber, an avid collector of Pre-Raphaelites, has collected 300 works of the school to date, and he had his collection exhibited by the Royal Academy of Arts in 2003.