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The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) was founded in 1849 by
to revitalize the arts. (Even though William's and Michael's sister, Christina, never was an official member of the Brotherhood, she was a crucial member of the inner circle.
Other artists and writers formed part of a larger Pre-Raphaelite circle, including
A poet whose work parallels the artistic project of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, is Robert Browning , whose work was enormously popular with them all and a particular influence on Rossetti, who wrote out Pauline (1833) from the British Museum copy. Like the paintings of the Brotherhood, Browning's poems simultaneously extend the boundaries of subject and create a kind of abrasive realism, and like the work of the young painters, his poems also employ elaborate symbolism drawn from biblical types to carry the audience beyond the aesthetic surface, to which he, like the painters, aggressively draws attention. One must mention the Browningesque element in Pre-Raphaelite poetry because it appears intermittently all the way up to Hopkins in self-consciously difficult language, the dramatic monologue, and elaborate applications of biblical typology.
The second form of Pre-Raphaelitism, which grows out of the first under the direction of D.G. Rossetti, is Aesthetic Pre-Raphaelitism, and it in turn produced the Arts and Crafts Movement, modern functional design, and the Aesthetes and Decadents.
Rossetti and his follower Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) emphasized themes of eroticized medievalism (or medievalized eroticism) and pictorial techniques that produced a moody atmosphere.
The Beguiling of Merlin, Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones 1874.
This form of Pre-Raphaelitism has most relevance to poetry; for although the earlier combination of a realistic style with elaborate symbolism appears in a few poems, particularly those of the Rossettis, this second stage finally had the most influence upon literature. All the poets associated with Pre-Raphaelitism draw upon the poetic continuum that descends from Spenser through Keats and Tennyson - one that emphasizes lush vowel sounds, sensuous description, and subjective psychological states.
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.
Max Beerbohm's Caricature of the Rossetti Circle, 1922.
Pre-Raphaelitism in poetry had major influence upon the writers of the Decadence, like Ernest Dowson, Lionel Johnson, Michael Field, and Oscar Wilde, as well as upon Gerard Manley Hopkins and W.B. Yeats, both of whom were also influenced by Ruskin and visual Pre-Raphaelitism.
In other words, to avoid
"Cattle-pieces and sea-pieces and fruit-pieces and family-pieces, the eternal brown cows in ditches, and white sails in squalls, and sliced lemons in saucers, and foolish faces in simpers." (Ruskin)
What are the characteristics of the early Pre-Raphaelite paintings?
They exhibited their work with the initials "P.R.B." (for Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood) for a short while, and had a journal, The Germ, attracting much criticism, especially from Charles Dickens, before support from John Ruskin lead to their work being reconsidered in a more favourable light.
Later, founder Rossetti inspired a new, younger generation of artists to follow the romantic, medieval type of painting which he himself produced, and these are also called Pre-Raphaelites, and sometimes referred to as the second generation.