Arts & Crafts Movement in England
Group of young British painters, led by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, and John Everett Millais, who banded together in 1848 in reaction against what they considered the unimaginative and artificial historical painting of the 18th and early 19th centuries, seeking to express a new moral seriousness and sincerity in their works.
Their name, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, honoured the simple depiction of nature in Italian art before Raphael; the symbolism, imagery, and mannered style of their paintings often suggest a faux-medieval world.
Though active less than 10 years, the group had a profound influence on the arts.
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of English painters, poets, and critics, founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
The group's intention was to reform art by rejecting what they considered to be the mechanistic approach first adopted by the Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo. They believed that the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art. Hence the name "Pre-Raphaelite."
They wanted to return to the abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art.
They were particularly fascinated by medieval culture, believing it to possess a spiritual and creative integrity that had been lost in later eras. This emphasis on medieval culture was to clash with certain principles of realism, which stress the independent observation of nature. In later years the movement divided and began to move in two directions. The realist-side was led by Hunt and Millais, while the medievalist-side was led by Rossetti and his followers, Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris.
After 1856, Rossetti became an inspiration for the medievalising strand of the movement. His work influenced his friend William Morris, in whose firm Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. he became a partner, and with whose wife Jane he may have had an affair. Ford Madox Brown and Edward Burne-Jones also became partners in the firm.
Through Morris's company the ideals of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood influenced many interior designers and architects, arousing interest in medieval designs, as well as other crafts. This led directly to the Arts and Crafts movement headed by William Morris.
But the enduring visual image of Pre-Raphaelitism was forged by Birmingham’s native son, Sir Edward Burne-Jones. Greatest of the followers, he became a leader in his turn, and it is in his paintings and drawings, his designs for tapestries and stained glass, that the world recognises Pre-Raphaelite art without hesitation for what it is - a mode of thought and a style of work resting on definable and justified foundations.
Without Burne-Jones, the Pre-Raphaelite Movement would have been a phenomenon not a continuity. His friendship and close association with William Morris ensured the permanence of the Pre-Raphaelite style through his link with the Arts and Crafts Movement, carrying their united spirit on into the twentieth century
On Buffalo Architecture and History website:
- Illustration at top of page: "St. George" stained glass panel at the Albert & Victoria Museum, London