Pre-Raphaelites in the Summer Exhibition


This remarkable painting was exhibited when Millais was just 19 years old. He’d been a student at the Royal Academy Schools, so he was very well trained in academic principles of history painting. He would’ve read his ‘Reynolds Discourses’, but in a way this painting is a rebellion against that history. He presents this artistic manifesto which is all about very close observation and this very particular, precise method of painting where he paints all this detail. This truth to nature that he captures through the individual hairs on the greyhound to the feathers that this bird of prey is plucking here. This is a story of a tragic love affair when the Pre-Raphaelites really liked using these stories of romance and often tragic, romantic liaisons at that. Here you can really see the ways in which Millais is thinking about a ‘Pre-Raphaelite’ art form. He’s looking back to before the Renaissance. To medieval art really and using some of those lessons which he’d learnt from looking at the works of medieval alter pieces and at that time the Royal Academy was in the National Gallery, in Trafalgar Square, and the Academy occupied one wing and the National Gallery the other. So the young Pre-Raphaelites, which included Millais, Holman Hunt, could cross the hall from the Royal Academy Schools, and go an look at these works of art. This work when it was displayed in 1849 was fairly warmly received and the critics were quite warm and effusive about the work. That would all change the next year, in 1850. Millais exhibited a painting called ‘Christ in the House of His Parents’ which is now at the Tate Britain. That caused a huge critical storm where the writers were just absolutely appalled at the lowliness of the way in which Millais had depicted the life of Christ. So controversy, intrigue surrounded the Pre-Raphaelite painters. These young painters from the very start of their careers, when they exhibited at the Summer Exhibition.

2 thoughts on “Pre-Raphaelites in the Summer Exhibition

  1. OK – PRE-RAPHS.. OK. I CAN HANDLE THAT. I ADVISE YOU KIDS, IF YOU'RE GONNA ATTEMPT AUTODIDACTISM, DON'T TELL ANYONE WHAT YER UP TO WHO YER ADMIRING… WHAT YER THINKING.
    ALL GOOD. THUMBS UP, SIR.

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