The Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood Manifesto And Victorian English Culture Essays

The Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood Manifesto And Victorian English Culture Essays

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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 is composed of elements important to the Brotherhood including: subject matter from a literary source, nature as it is truly seen, Victorian society, and a reference to the works of the Northern Renaissance.
The Royal Academy of Art set the standard for Fine Art in England, and to have a successful career as an artist your work had to be included in the annual exhibition. The Academy taught the students to take advantage of the advances in art achieved after the Italian Renaissance with extensive time spent understanding the human form. The members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood studied the artwork of the old masters available to be viewed at the National Gallery including Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding Portrait and they traveled to the Louvre in Paris where they were able to see copies of frescos by Fra Angelico. The work the Pre-Raphaelites created differed from their contemporaries at the academy with their, “simple compositions; flat, clear colors, shallow perspective, well-defined...


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...d with the romanticism some felt, including the Pre-Raphaelites with the rapidly changing society they lived in.
Millais’s Ophelia reconciles his education with the Academy, the influence of medieval and early renaissance paintings, the rapidly changing Victorian society, and the ideals the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood strove to embody. The desire for artists to create unique work that could compete with the works that came before them, especially those considered the greatest following Raphael, would continue through the turn of the century. The Pre-Raphaelite reference of art history impacted art education and started the dialogue to change the level of importance early painters have on modern artists. Ophelia is still recognized as a successful painting that encourages our understanding of the changing Victorian society and our understanding of the world around us.

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