Pre-Raphaelites by Bethan Stevens
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in 1848. Their artistic beliefs were set out by John Ruskin, the art historian who ardently supported them. Their chief principle was `truth to nature': that a painter should draw precisely what he or she sees, and not follow painterly conventions. They saw this as a virtue of painters working before the age of Raphael but subsequently corrupted in more sophisticated art - hence the name `Pre-Raphaelite' and their admiration of Medievalism. The British Museum has an important collection of Pre-Raphaelite art which is in constant demand for international exhibitions. In particular, the collection comprises a wonderful collection of drawings by Pre-Raphaelite artists, including three notable albums by Rossetti and Burne- Jones; the Robin de Beaumont collection which includes all the most important Pre-Raphaelite illustrated books plus rare proof impressions; and 49 volumes comprising 54,000 proofs of prints published by the Dalziel brothers, the chief publishers of Pre-Raphaelite prints. Victorian poetry (notably by Tennyson as well as Rossetti's sister Christina), novels and even children's literature, with its tense mixture of hyper-realism and vivid fantasy, provided ideal subjects for Pre- Raphaelite illustration. John Tenniel, who was contemporary with the Pre-Raphaelites, borrows heavily from their work for his famous Alice in Wonderland illustrations, and the author offers a wide range of poetic and literary extracts to accompany these fascinating images.