The term “Pre-Raphaelite” is now used so frequently that many people seem to think it is just an adjective for any piece of Victorian art. To further understand the term, I direct you to Pre-Raphaelites: An Introduction (via Victorian Web). I confess I’m guilty of occasionally including artists on the site who are not technically Pre-Raphaelite.
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood began in 1848 as a secret group of artists: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti (his brother), Thomas Woolner, William Holman Hunt, Frederic George Stephens, James Collinson, and John Everett Millais. They were revolting against the current art establishment, mainly the British Royal Academy and their formulaic approach to art instruction. Though the Pre-Raphaelite’s goal was to remain secret, the meaning of the initials “PRB” inscribed on their paintings became public (possibly leaked by Dante Gabriel Rossetti).
The Brotherhood’s early doctrines were expressed in four declarations:
The Pre-Raphaelites created art that is known for its brilliance and vividness of color. They achieved this by painting white backgrounds that they would later paint over in thin layers of oil paint. Their work was meticulous and their subject matter drew inspiration from myths, legends, Shakespeare, Keats, and lovely long haired damsels that we now equate with Victorian beauty.
There are a few artists that were not members of the PRB, but who are often described as “Pre-Raphaelite” because of the pre-raphaelite influence seen in their work, or because of their close association with certain members of the PRB, namely Dante Gabriel Rossetti. These artists include William Morris, Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Sir John William Waterhouse, Evelyn De Morgan, Arthur Hughes, Ford Madox Brown, and Frederic, Lord Leighton to name a few.
A Few Pre-Raphaelite links: