- Raphaelite Brotherhood Manifesto And Victorian English Culture In John Everett Millais's Ophelia

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“The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood Manifesto and Victorian English Culture in John Everett Millais’s “Ophelia”

The British Royal Academy of Art dictated how young artists learned their craft and the works that were considered successful art. Three students at the Royal Academy; Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Hunt, and John Everett Millais, set out to create work that differed from the Academy’s established criteria. Those three men formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in secret in order to create original artwork that differed from the establishment. The painting Ophelia, by Millais invokes the criteria the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood constructed to govern their paintings and the influence of Victorian English culture on the artist. Ophelia …show more content…

John Ruskin wrote in his book Modern Paintings encouraging young artists to renounce the traditional Academy teaching and to focus instead on close observation in nature. Ruskin promoted the realist aspects of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings at the expense of the historical component, the painters used the sharp realism rather than the distortions and abstractions found in the early medieval works. Ruskin’s influence became the dominant component in Pre-Raphaelite paintings and is evidenced in Millais’s Ophelia. The study of nature falls into the manifesto William Michael Rossetti, brother of Dante Gabriel Rossetti is quoted as explaining the intentions of the Brotherhood. The Pre-Raphaelites set out, “to express genuine ideas, to study nature attentively, so as to know how to express them, to sympathize with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parading and learned by rote, and most indispensible of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues.” While the Brotherhood was short-lived each artist created work starting out from these basic tenants and brought their unique talent to their …show more content…

The changes that brought about an emerging middle class that supported the artist’s careers also impacted societal relationships and gender issues. Ophelia, the lover to Shakespeare’s Hamlet became the subject of many paintings shown at the Academy, for Victorians Ophelia was a symbol of the juxtaposition of women as inherently innocent, with an aversion for unrestrained sexuality and mental instability. The scene Millais painted Ophelia in is an imagined depiction of her suicide by drowning that is mentioned in Hamlet but doesn’t occur on stage. Utilizing a subject from a literary source became a common theme in Pre-Raphaelite paintings, where they would often create an image with exacting detail to the written words. Ophelia is an embodiment for young Victorian girls expressing the grieving heart, it was social norm for a woman who had been rejected or cast aside to accept a fate of death by drowning or decline instead of facing the shame of rejection. For Millais, the scene he painted Ophelia in was equally as important as the figure. The scenery he chose was only accessible to him with the massive expansion of the railway in England, enabling him to travel outside of the city of London to find a scene closely resembling that described by

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