Pre-Raphaelites Brotherhood – British Artists Group

Edward Robert HUGHES English 1851–1914 The princess out of school
Edward Robert HUGHES English 1851–1914 The princess out of school

The Pre-Raphaelites were a group of British artists.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) was founded in 1848 at the family home of John Everett Millais on Gower Street in London by three young men. They quickly expanded to include another painter, two authors, and a sculptor.

From 1848, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was led by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones. Their vision of the feminine figure and face was influenced by fairy-tale imagery, early Renaissance artists, and William Morris’s wife, Janey. They emphasised the neck and head, and Renaissance-style necklaces with pendants were the most popular jewellery in their works. Both Burne-Jones and Rosetti were inspired by sensual Oriental and North African jewellery and collected it.

The Pre-Raphaelites

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882)

He was especially enamoured of medieval Italian art and poetry. Rossetti, in 1860 married Elizabeth Siddal, a model who set the standard for the brotherhood. Their first child was born stillborn. Siddal died of an overdose of laudanum, an opiate. Rossetti placed in her coffin the manuscript of poems that he had intended to publish. In 1869, he had her coffee exhumed to retrieve the notebook and publish “Poems”. In 1871, Rossetti and his friend William Morris shared a country house in Oxfordshire. With Morris away in Iceland that Summer, Rossettua and Morris’s wife Jane she was the model for many of his later paintings, including “Walter Willow” (1871), fell in love and had an affair. He lived much of his life with mental illness and substance abuse, dying on Easter in 1882.

John Everett Millais (1829 – 1896)

In 1853, he went on a painting exhibition to Glenfinlas, Scotland, with his brother William, the critic John Ruskin – a huge supporter of the PRB and Ruskin’s wife Euphemia, or Effie. Millais and Effie fell in love, and within a year, she was granted an annulment for her marriage to Ruskin on the basis that it had not been consummated. She and Millais were married in 1855. Millais’ painting style moved closer to that of the Royal Academy. He was president for several months before he died.

William Holman Hunt

Through Millais, he befriended Rossetti and helped launch the PRB. In early 1854, Hunt visited Jerusalem, where he sketched and painted biblical subjects in their proper settings. Two resulting works; “The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple” 1854 – 1860 (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery) and “The Afterglow in Egypt” (1854-1863, Southampton City Art Gallery), solidified his reputation and his finances. He married the model Fanny Waugh in 1865; one year later, she died during the birth of their son. In 1875, he travelled to Switzerland to marry Fanny’s younger sister Edith because the English church did not allow a widower to marry his dead wife’s sister.

James Collinson (1825 – 1892)

Rossetti recruited him to join the PRB. He converted in 1848 from Catholicism to Anglicanism to anchor his engagement with Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel’s sister. He reverted to Catholicism two years later, and the engagement ended. Millais’ 1850 painting, “Christ in the House of his Parents,” attracted accusations of blasphemy, including by Charles Dickens. A controversy ensued, and Collinson left the PRB. After considering replacements, the remaining members disbanded.

Thomas Woolner (1825 – 1892)

A sculptor and poet, he is best known for his portrait sculptures and medallions, which though often classical in nature, displayed an attention to detail that melded with the aims of the PRB. His poem “My Beautiful Lady” appeared in the first issue of the PRB’s short-lived magazine, “The Germ.” In 1875 he was elected to the Royal Academy, where he was professor of sculpture from 1877 – 1879. He was a friend of Alfred Tennyson and was in contact with Charles Darwin, who was so impressed by Woolner’ssculpture “Puck” and by his discussions of anatomy that he named part of the ear the “Woolberian tip.”

Frederic George Stephens (1828 – 1907)

Stephens met Millais and Hunt in 1844 at the Royal Academy. He tried his hand at drawing and painting; however, he made his name as an art critic, sharing with readers the philosophy of the PRB. He wrote for several publications, notably the literary magazine “Anenaeum.”

William Michael Rossetti (1829 – 1919)

An art critic and a younger brother of Dante Gabriel, he acted as secretary of the PRB and edited “The Germ.” He wrote a volume in 1889 about Dante Gabriell’s painting and poetry, and in 1895 published a biography of his brother. He also edited much of his sister Christina’s poetry.


Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Yasidjko, C. (2007, September 23). The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The News Journal, p. A12.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882) British painter and poet – Encyclopedia of Design

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a British painter and poet. He was born in London. He studied drawing with Cotman and, in 1848, with Holman Hunt. In 1848, Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Rossetti founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. In 1850 with William Morris, he painted frescoes for the Oxford Union debating hall.

William Morris – beauty of practicality – Encyclopedia of Design

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or beautiful.” That was the rallying call of the nineteenth-century designer, William Morris, a British designer and social reformer. He aimed to rid the world of shoddy mass-produced goods and replace them with objects that were designed and made by artists.

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