The Preraphaelite/Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded informally by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti circa 1849. Their intention was to signal their backwards-looking, medievalizing focus on painters prior to Raphael (1483-1520). By the early 16th century, they felt, European art had lost its youth, its sincerity, its high symbolic purpose, its clarity of intent. The works of Brotherhood members would reintroduce into the modern world – mainly through religious and sentimental portraits set against transcendentally glowing medieval Landscapes – some of this lost purity. John Ruskin agreed, and by 1852 or so Hunt, Millais, Rossetti and other like-minded artists became financially successful. With William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, Rossetti carried on with some form of the Brotherhood in Oxford.
The appeal of a doctrine which rejected the burgeoning and visibly unaesthetic 19th-century industrial world is clear. Its appeal to writers of fantasy – like Morris – is also clear; for a good Preraphaelite painting was like a Portal into an earlier, truer, cleaner, more meaningful world. [JC]