The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in 1848, London, by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Later on it was joined by William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner. Their plan was to change art by removing the mechanistic approach which appeared after Raphael and Michelangelo. The seven considered Raphael's paintings having a corrupting influence on art, hence the name.
Intentions and thoughts
The Brotherhood wanted to return to Quattrocento Italian art for its detail, strong colours and compositions. They published a periodical, The Germ, to promote their ideas and creations and recorded their debates in the Pre-Raphaelite Journal. They specifically opposed the founder of the English Royal Academy of Arts (where Hunt and Millais used to study), Sir Joshua Reynolds, but at the beginning they intended to keep the existence of the group a secret from the Academy.
The Brotherhood's early doctrines were expressed in four declarations
: to have genuine ideas to express, to study nature attentively (so as to know how to depict them), to sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art (to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parodying and learned by rote), to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues. The doctrines were non-dogmatic, since the Brotherhood wanted the individuals to express their own ideas in their own way as well. All members signed their work with their name followed by "PRB".
They were inspired by Romanticism, medieval culture for its spirituality and creativity that later disappeared, and especially by nature, depicting it in a great amount of sharp detail and strong colour (after the Quattrocento art mentioned previously). In later stages, the group divided and moved in two directions - the realists
(led by Hunt and Millais) and the medievalists
(Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris). The divide wasn't quite completed - both directions opposed the materialist realism associated with Courbet and Impressionism.
In 1850, the Pre-Raphaelites became the subject of controversy after the exhibition of Millais' painting Christ in the House of His Parents. The brotherhood's medievalism was called backward-looking and the amount detail was considered ugly. The painting itself was described as blasphemous. After that event, Collinson left the brotherhood and shortly after the group disbanded. Artists influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites continued painting but no longer signed their works with "PRB".