The Pre-Raphaelites 'Echo and Narcissus' 1903 by John

The Pre-Raphaelites 'Echo and Narcissus' 1903 by John

The Pre-Raphaelites 'Echo and Narcissus' 1903 by John William Waterhouse (1849 - 1917) The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in John Millais's parents' house in London in 1848. At the initial meeting John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt were present. A few months later other artists (poets, painters and critics) joined the group with the aim of resisting the conventions and the ugly noisy world of industrial England. These artists glorified the values of a simple but more

beautiful past. They called themselves Pre-Raphaelites as they thought that since the Italian painter Raphael (1483-1520) art had degenerated losing its ties with nature. According to them, Raphael had painted religious pictures with incredible perfection in technique, but with almost cynical disregard for spiritual feeling. The essence of the Brotherhood was, therefore, opposition to technical skill without inspiration. They aimed at Truth to Nature, i.e. representing nature in a realistic way.

This could be achieved through a minute description of detail in nature they wanted to return to the abundant detail and intense colours of the early XV century Italian art. They painted only serious - usually religious or romantic subjects. Their paintings were also rich in symbolism. The Brotherhood's early doctrines were expressed in four points: 1. To have genuine ideas to express; 2. To study Nature attentively, so as to know how

to express them (i.e. their ideas); 3. To sympathise with what was direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what was conventional and learned by rote; 4. And, most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues.

The Pre-Raphaelites worshipped beauty above everything not only in painting but also in poetry. For them beauty had a social function, because it improved society. Therefore, they paid great attention to the formal aspects of their poems and experimented in metres and rhymes. The result was a poetry which gave particular importance to details and was characterized by:

1. sensuousness, 2. images and sounds suggesting physical pleasure, 3. pictorial qualities, Their poetry was also rich in symbols, Because, through it, they wanted to express a very profound spiritual reality and their themes, like in painting, were mainly: medieval, biblical, mystical.

In conclusion, the term Pre-Raphaelite became synonymous with a rejection of the external squalor caused by the Industrial Revolution. In their search for beauty and sensuousness they anticipated the later aesthetic movement. The Pre-Raphaelites published their doctrines in a magazine called The Germ.

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