The term Pre-Raphaelite, which refers to both art and literature, is confusing because there were essentially two different and almost opposed movements, the second of which grew out of the first. The term itself originated in relation to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, an influential group of mid-nineteenth-century avante garde painters associated with Ruskin who had great effect upon British, American, and European art. Those poets who had some connection with these artists and whose work presumably shares the characteristics of their art include Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, George Meredith, William Morris, and Algernon Charles Swinburne.
William Holman Hunt's portraits of his young Pre-Raphaelite Brothers John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. [Click upon thumbnails to obtain larger images.]
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) was founded in 1849 by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), D.G. Rossetti, John Everett Millais (1829-1896), William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Thomas Woolner, and F. G. Stephens to revitalize the arts. (Even though William and Michael's sister, Christina, never was an official member of the Brotherhood, she was a crucial member of the inner circle. Although the young would-be art revolutionaries never published a manifesto, their works and memoirs show that having read Ruskin's praise of the artist as prophet, they hoped to create an art suitable for the modern age by: 1. Testing and defying all conventions of art; for example, if the Royal Academy schools taught art students to compose paintings with (a) pyramidal groupings of figures, (b) one major source of light at one side matched by a lesser one on the opposite, and (c) an emphasis on rich shadow and tone at the expense of color, the PRB with brilliant perversity painted bright-colored, evenly lit pictures that appeared almost flat. 2. The PRB also emphasized precise, almost photographic representation of even humble