Wednesday, November 09, 2005

John Ruskin, pre-Raphaelite art


(John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1852)

So I'm working on this paper about materialism in the Victorian age and, coincidental to that, I keep finding all this information about one of the leading poets and architectural/art critics of the age, John Ruskin.

A few weeks ago a friend showed me some prints by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, a Pre-Raphaelite artist. I had heard of Pre-Raphaelite art, but did not know much about it. So, I went to my favorite web sources, Wikipedia and Answer.com, and, well, here's a paste from Wikipedia:

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (also known as the Pre-Raphaelites) was a group of English painters, poets and critics, founded in 1848 by John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt.
The group's intention was to reform art by rejecting what they considered to be the mechanistic approach adopted by the Mannerist artists who followed Raphael and Michelangelo. They believed that the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on academic teaching of art. Hence the name "Pre-Raphaelite". In particular they objected to the influence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the founder of the English Royal Academy of Arts. They called him 'Sir Sloshua', believing that his sloppy technique was a formulaic and clich├ęd form of academic Mannerism. In contrast they wanted to return to the abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art.

In 1850 the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood became controversial after the exhibition of Millais's painting "Christ in the House of His Parents", considered to be blasphemous by many reviewers, notably Charles Dickens. Their medievalism was attacked as backward-looking and their extreme devotion to detail was condemned as ugly and jarring to the eye. According to Dickens, Millais made the Holy Family look like alcoholics and slum-dwellers, adopting contorted and absurd 'medieval' poses. A rival group of older artists, The Clique, also used their influence against the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Their principles were publicly attacked by the President of the Academy, Sir Charles Lock Eastlake.
However, the Brotherhood found support from the critic John Ruskin, who praised their devotion to nature and rejection of conventional methods of composition. He continued to support their work both financially and in his writings.

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