Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Pre-Raphaelites

Since the art of the pre-Raphaelites is featured so often on this blog, I was glad to find an article about them. (Via Pre-Raphaelite Art) According to The Guardian:

Few dead white male artists are as popular as Rossetti and co, despite a near total condemnation by modern critics. Even a senior curator at Tate Britain recently expressed to me his dislike of these artists - but what can Tate Britain do? As he said, if they don't show the pre-Raphaelites they get complaints from "teenage girls".

Well, I've decided to take my name off the petition calling for the pre-Raphaelites to be erased from history. After all, what was their crime? Not to be Manet. And yet just because their version of the avant-garde turned out to have little to do with the future of art doesn't mean these idealistic painters were without merit.

They were very literary artists, in a literary nation. They told stories that moved and seduced their public - and still do. In the end, liking a picture because it reminds you of the imaginative worlds of Tennyson, Dante, Keats and Shakespeare - to take some authors the pre-Raphaelites illustrated - is commendable. There are far worse reasons to like art than because it feeds a passion for literature. It is not even true that modern art owes nothing to the pre-Raphaelites. Their fascination with poetry, romance and dream came into its own in the late 19th century when the Symbolists emulated, and deepened, their sensuality. There is a line from Burne-Jones to Gustave Moreau and Odilon Redon.

This is why the pre-Raphaelites are famous all over the world, not just in Britain. We can't escape them, and we shouldn't deny them. They epitomise the worst of British art - and the best.

(Artwork: Rossetti's Helen of Troy)



Julygirl said...

Everything that came before influences what comes after, in spite of what effete art critics thinks.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

How do you like the art that illustrates Tolkien?

elena maria vidal said...

Very much!

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

It reminds me, at best, of the artwork of John Bauer, a Swedish fairy-tale illustrator and painter.

In my childhood, there were fairytale collections made on the criterion: does this fairy tale have an illustration by John Bauer.

Or maybe he was still alive and cooperating with the project. If you ever learn Swedish, do not miss it!

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

como vengo de decir: John Bauer

as said, et c

tubbs said...

I wish someone would compile an art book of PreRaphaelites and the christian saints. I'm familiar with some Cecilias, but not much else.

Tristan Robin said...

very nice essay!

Unknown said...

And it's not just teenage girls who appreciate them. ;) I'd complain too if they took them off exhibit. The Tate museum is one of my favorites.