In my second year of art school in 1995, I discovered the Pre-Raphaelites. This discovery was the turning point for me as an artist, it was my eureka moment. Quite literally, I remember the penny dropping. All of the things I’d been trying to say in my art suddenly made sense. I was a romantic. I was a storyteller. I loved detail.
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of English artists and poets founded in 1849. The three driving figures of this movement were William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Their objective as a group was to reform art by ignoring the conventional Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo (hence the term “Pre-Raphaelite”). Rejecting the Mannerist’s mechanical and artificial painting styles, the pre-Raphaelites preferred classical poses in complex compositions with an abundance of detail and rich colour.
To me, the Pre-Raphaelite’s made paintings look so perfect, it was as though they’d composed a photograph. This was partly the reason I came to love photography above all other fine art tools. Complex narratives formed the themes of their work. Appealing to my fragile teenage character, the Pre-Raphaelites often focused on tragic heroines from famous poems and literature. I’d been story telling in my work for some time, but I lacked an understanding of the employment of symbolism. This was something the Pre-Raphaelite’s introduced into my world. Telling a story with detail and symbolism can be a powerful tool.
There’s an engrossing drama serial about the Pre-Raphaelites called Desperate Romantics. Makes for a good lazy Sunday and you’ll wakeup inspired on Monday. A nice way to start your week.