The pre-Raphaelites (Part III) :
Measure of emotional security
Renunciation : Queen Elizabeth of Hungary. Painting by James
ART: Directing increasingly their creative vision upon poetry and
symbolism, the Pre-Raphaelites obtained a measure of emotional security
without weakening the character of their work. They never refrained from
displaying the ugliness and its danger and drew upon it the implicity of
character to re-interpret the themes of medieval romance and religion.
In all aspects, their art was a protest against the existence
entrenched in majority of great names who preceded them but were able to
draw what they thought was in keeping with their era.
Victorian elegance adorned many of their paintings. However, Pre-Rapahelite
art appeared to be the outcome of over-emphatic expression. The levels
of passion and piety, the exposure which was painful rather than
appealing to the sensitive art lover, never hesitated their brushwork or
even pay attention, had adverse effect on their finished work when
For example, Holman Hunt's Shadow of the Cross or Millais's
Prescribed royalist had shortcomings which discretion, left unnoticed.
They were Pardonable in the eyes of art critics since the same disturbed
stream of feelings were found to be with most of these painters.
Yet, they were considered the impulse behind Pre-Rephaelites's
greatest achievements. (rubbish, I would say).
There was the quality and rarity, less open to dispute which made
some the greatest pieces of art in the world. Today, what is best in
painting may not belong to the Pre-Raphaelites but facts remain that
their art as the effective aesthetic vehicle and awkward constrain
arising from them, lay in the region virulent colour and figures which
is the trademark of these artists.
Sadly, the agitated creative spirit which at the beginning seemed to
fuse emotions of the Brotherhood rapidly extinguished because its
intense to be sustained for a long-time, became weak to resist the
pressure of society. This weakness could have changed to resilience had
the pressure been less diluted.
Aurora: Edward Burne-Jones’s painting
In 1853, the Brotherhood was already dissolving and as this decade
came to a stop, genuine manifestation in art was experienced. As
technical brilliance surfaced, painters like Millais renounced the less
rewarding enthusiasm of youth as was seen in Autmn Leaves, painted in
1856. This was his last painting in which the ardour of poetic feeling
was clearly revealed.
Homan Hunt had virtually relapsed into a laboured religiosity while
Rossetti's posthumous portrait of his wife, Beata Beatrix in 1863 fired
his main artistic achievement but it was more amply conceived and
academically painted than his earlier work.
By this time a record decline of the painter was felt but the
conspicuous painter members of the Brotherhood was slipping by. Though
its transience was ascribed to the original lack of faculty, the case of
James Collision Frederick Stephens whose adherents were secured chiefly
to raise the membership to seven sensibly effected the inspiration and
produced vividly pre-Raphaelite work and talents that were unequal.
The art of Burne-jones reproduced the grace of twinkling twilight
that attracted William Morris. He was of sanguine view of the beauty and
felicity of past epochs. His first paintings were faithful echoes of
Rossetti's evocation of Romance enflamed by the desire to improve.
Burne-Jones was born in Birmigham in 1833 and died in 1898 at Fulham.
Edward Burne-JonesAn academic among the Pre-Raphaelites, Edward
Burne-Jones was intended for the Church but realised it was not to be
so. He entered Exeter College, Oxford in 1852 where he met william
Morros. With others who were interested in art and along with poet R. W.
Dixon banded together to publish the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine in
which some of Morris's early writings as well as contributions by
Burne-Jones was much impressed by some of the paintings of Rossetti
in 1855 that were in Combe's collection in Oxford which left a deep
impression in him. Towards the end of this same year, Burne-Jones happen
to meet Rossitti who persuaded him to leave the university and take up
to painting. He received some early lessons from Rossetti and was
allowed to watch Rossetti at work.
Otherwise, he was self-taught. His early work had a strong semblance
of Rossetti's art which had a strong influence on him. By 1859 to 1862,
he visited Italy. Italian paintings had a great influence especially
from the 15th century masters that are reflected on his paintings. He
was overwhelmed by Botticelli and Mantegna.
The Arming of Perseus hangs to the Southapton Civic Centre. This
tempera on canvas is 60 x 84, is one of his major exhibits. This
painting is a sequel to the one titled, The Call of Perseus which hangs
in the same centre. AUROA is yet another brilliant painting done in oil
on canvas, 70 1/2 x 30 and in the collection of the late Lady Desborough.
James Collinson Was a member of the Pre-Raphaelites Brotherhood on
the advice and persuasion of Rossetti. Collinson was a convert to Roman
Catholicism and when he met and fell in love with Christina Rossetti who
was a devout Anglican, she refused to marry him. He reverted back to his
This had such an impact on his emotions, he resigned from the PRB. He
remained with them for four years until a band of Jesuits found him fit
for painting and during all this time, he never renewed his friendship
with the Rossettis but continued to paint insipid genre art until his
But everyone was of opinion that there would have been some brilliant
qualities in him for Christina Rossetti to have been attracted to him.
To outsiders, he appeared timid, of modest demeanour, retiring and would
laugh only in a lachrymose manner.
James Collinson was born in 1825 a Mansfield. He also died at
Mansfield in 1881. A brilliant artist who rendered proper Pre-Raphalite
fidelity to truth to the last detail, he painted many masterpieces and
among them the spectacular one was The Renunciation of Queen Elizabeth
This hangs in the Johannesburg Art Gallery and was exhibited in 1851
at the National Exhibition. Oil on canvas, it measures. Collinson was
touched by the story of Elizabeth renouncing her rank and got herself
received into the Monastery of Kizingen where she died. Later, she was
canonized into sainthood.
John Brett, A. R. A. John Brett was born in 1830 at Bletchingly and
died in 1902 at Putney. One of the very few painters who disastrously
was influenced by Ruskin and failed to realise the damage it had done to
his career in the early stages.
But coming under the state of the PRB, he took a turn to the better,
especially when he painted Mrs Coventry Patmore at the R. A. in 1856 and
in 1857 he represented the Pre-Raphalite Exhibition in Russel Place.
After an illustrous career he became a Fellow of the Royal Astronomic
Society and showed himself a true deciple of Ruskin.