The Pre-Raphaelites. (Founded in 1848)

The Pre-Raphaelites.  (Founded in 1848)

The Pre-Raphaelites were a small group of English painters, poets and critics, founded in 1848, which formed a “brotherhood” of artists. The brotherhood was founded by William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais who wished to reform art and see a return to detail and complex compositions. Later, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens, William Michael Rosetti (Dante Gabriels brother), and Thomas Woolner, joined the brotherhood.


The Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood rejected the rules and conventions of their schooling at The Royal Academy, which they considered “frivolous” art. They wished to develop a more naturalistic style of art and an almost photographic rendition in their compositions. Contemporary critics and art historians considered Raphael as the artist which achieved the highest degree of perfection, which the young students rebelled against, which is why they coined their name as the “Pre-Raphaelites”. The brotherhood popularized a romantic style of art, with a fondness for Arthurian and Greek legend. They also drew upon Shakespeare, Keats and Tennyson and embraced the compositions of Flemis and Quattrocentro Italian Art.


The Brotherhood was formed in John Everett Millais’ parents’ house in London in 1848. John Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and William Holman Hunt were all students at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and had previously met in a sketching-society called the Cyclographic Club. Before the year was out the Brotherhood was a seven-member-strong group consisting of John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner . Ford Madox Brown (tutor at the Royal Academy and of which Rossetti was a student of) was invited to join the group, but preferred to remain an independent artist. However, he did remain close to the group. Other close associates were Charles Allston Collins, Alexander Munro, and Thomas Tupper.


The existence of the Brotherhood was kept secret from the Royal Academy until an exhibition in 1849. As prior agreed, all Brotherhood members signed their works with the intials “PRB”. Millais presented his painting “Isabella” and Holman Hunt his “Rienzi” at the Royal Academy. Rossetti presented his “Girlhood of Mary Virgin” at the Free Exhibition on Hyde Park Corner. The discovery of this secret brotherhood initially caused outrage. Their heavily religious and realist themes were so far removed from popular historical paintings that they caused upset and offence in the established art world. The art world was not prepared to see religious subjects in a realistic manner. They were tagged as backward-looking for their medieval influences and their devotion to detail was condemned as ugly. The Royal Academy however, continued to exhibit Pre-Raphaelite paintings which became more palatable over time, eventually gaining respect and popularity. Critic John Ruskin in particular was a staunch supporter and defender of the Brotherhood. He praised their devotion to nature and rejection of modern conventional methods of composition. Ruskin wrote letters to The Times praising and defending the work of the artists. (Ruskin in particular favoured the works of Millais, however, in later years following a scandal involving his wife leaving Ruskin for Millais, he was a scathing critic of Millais works). In fact, had it not been for Ruskin, the Pre-Raphaelites would likely have slipped into oblivion. Ruskin was a highly respected voice in the Victorian era and his appreciation of the artists works and notions had profound effect on the Brotherhood being accepted by society at the time.


Termed the first avant-garde movement in art, (a term the artists rejected preferring to be considered a reform-movement), the brotherhoods notions, theories and debates were recorded in a periodical magazine “The Germ”, established by the Brotherhood. The Germ was not a success however, and only four issues were generated (between January and April 1850). “The Germ” published poetry by Rossetti (who was also the magazines editor), and other members of the group. It also included verse and essays on art and literature.


Influenced by Romanticism, the Brotherhoods early doctrines were expressed in four declarations:


1: to have genuine ideas to express;

2: to study Nature attentively, so as to know how to express them;

3: to sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parodying and learned by rote;

4: and, most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues)


In 1850 Millais’ exhibited his painting “Christ in the House of His Parents” which depicted the Holy Family in Saint Joseph‘s carpentry workshop. It caused controversy. Critics considered the painting blasphemous. Charles Dickens in particular let his displeasure be known. He considered Millais’ Mary to be ugly, that the family looked like alcoholics and slum-dwellers, and the family pose to be absurd. He is quoted as saying Mary is “…so hideous in her ugliness that … she would stand out from the rest of the company as a Monster, in the vilest cabaret in France, or the lowest gin-shop in England”. The outcry catapulted the previously obscure Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood to notoriety. After this controversy Collinson left the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The remaining brothers could not decide whether to replace him with Allston Collins or Walter Howell Deverell. By 1955 the Brotherhood disbanded, and the movement divided and moved into two different directions. The medievalist-side was led by Rosetti, the realist-side by Hunt and Millais. Holman Hunt travelled to Palestine in order to view more realistic backgrounds for his paintings. Millais, disillusioned by the poor reception of his work, followed his own vocation, and eventually became president of the Royal Academy. The second wave of Pre-Raphaelism emerged through those influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, most notably Sir Edward Burne-Jones, John William Waterhouse, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, and John Melhuish Strudwick. Also strongly influenced by Rossetti’s work, was William Morris, who created the firm Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. Through Morris’ company the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood influenced the work of interior designers and architects, which lead to the Art and Crafts movement spearheaded by William Morris.

Pre-Raphaelitism emerged during the Victorian era and continued into the early 20th century with artists such as Maxwell Armfield and Frank Cadogan Cowper before eventually becoming out-moded in the 1920s. Although, of course, the 1920’s Arts and Craft movement, Art Nouveau movement, and eventually the Art Deco movement, were all initially influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite works.


Notable Pre-Raphaelite paintings include:

Ophelia (1851-1852) by John Everet Millais Oil on canvas 76.2cm x 111.8cm; Tate Britain, London.

Christ in the House of His Parents (1849-1850) by John Everet Millais Oil on canvas 86.4 cm × 139.7 cm; Tate Britain, London.

The Hireling Shepherd (1851) by William Holman Hunt. Oil on canvas 76.4cm x 109.5cm; Manchester City Art Galleries.

Annunciation (1850) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Oil on canvas 73cm x 41.9cm; Tate Gallery, London.




Fauvism: Colourist Movement 1904-1908

Fauvism, a short-lived but explosive movement within the art world, found its roots in Post-Impressionism. A movement which was pioneered by Gustav Moreau, but perpetuatedby Henri Matisse, the Fauvists main influences were Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh, the Nabis, and the neoimpressionists. Their primary focus was in the use of colour to convey emotion. Colour as an emotional force. They held the belief that the arrangements of colours should play as much importance as the subject matter. Paintings which aim to be symbolic, rather than realistic.


The basic tenets of Fauvists can be best expressed through the words of the artists themselves:


An extract of the conversation between Paul Gauguin and Paul Sérusier: “How do you see these trees? They are yellow. So, put in yellow; this shadow, rather blue, paint it with pure ultramarine; these red leaves? Put in vermilion.”


Matisse was quoted as saying, “There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.”


André Derain once said, “I used colour as a means of expressing my emotion, and not as a transcription of nature.”


The main Fauvists consisted of Henri Matisse, André Derain, Albert Marquet, Charles Camoin, Jean Puy, Maurice Marinot, Maurice de Vlaminck, Henri Manguin, Alfred Maurer, Raoul Dufy, George Rouault, Othon Friesz, Kees van Dongen, Achille Emile, and George Braque.


Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, Georges Rouault, Charles Camoin, Jean Puy, and Henri Manguin, had been students of Gustave Moreau at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Alice Bailly, from Switzerland, Henri Evenepoel, and Maurice Marinot also attended school in an Ecole Paris Academy. Maurice de Vlaminck and André Derain had been fellow artists at Chatou, a commune in the Yvelines department in the Île-de-France region, in the Paris suburbs. Achille Emile, Othon Friesz, Raoul Dufy, and Georges Braque, were from Le Harve, and joined the already formed group, after seeing Matisse’s work. Alfred Maurer, an American, who studied with the sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward and painter William Merritt, exchanged the New York art scene for Paris where he met his fellow Fauves. Kees van Dongen, who hailed from Holland, joined the Fauves when he settled in Paris.


The collective consciousness of the artists resulted in paintings which were radical. New techniques were applied. Unmixed colours were placed directly onto the canvas straight from the tubes. Colour use was vivid and dramatic. They were artistic rebels of the time, sending a shockwave through the art world.

In 1905 at the Salon D’Automne in Paris, the Fauvists reached their peak, when they presented an exhibition which caused a sensation. Their bold brash use of line, brushwork, and symbolic non-naturalistic use of colour, was like nothing seen before. Fauvism was the first movement which broke away from the traditional. Its impact was immense.  At the time, their radical paintings caused the critic Louise Vauxcelles to exclaim that the painters were “Les Fauves” (“Wild Beasts”). This name, openly accepted by the artists themselves, remained.


The public initially did not take well to the artist’s unusual approach. Their works were deemed childish and haphazard. Only days after the exhibition at the Salon D’Automne opened, there was a public outcry. The public considered the artists to be disrespectful to the masters, that their art was a mockery, and had no relevance. Critic Camille Mauclair described of the works: ‘A pot of paint has been flung in the face of the public.’ The Gallery was questioned as to why they would allow such a group to exhibit. However, after the initial shock, ridicule and mockery of the Fauves, from those “in the know” about art, as well as the general public, they began to gain respect when major art buyers were adding their paintings to their collections. Gertrude Stein, a major art buyer at the time, is one of several art collectors who embraced the new daring style of painting. The negative view and general attitude towards Fauvism changed, and they went on to be a major influence on art and artists of the 20th Century.


As a group, they were influenced by the influx of new exotic cultural products and crafts. Imported items from parts of the world that Europe had never before had access to. Arts and crafts mainly garnered from the colonisation of countries in Asia, the South Pacific, and Africa. African sculpted figurines, in particular, offered a new vision of decoration, simplified design, and in some cases, distortion of the figure. Woodcarvings from Polynesia provided inspiration for their decorative canvases, and handicrafts from Central and South America opened up a new palette of colour. Of course, they were also influenced by artists and art movements in Europe. For example, in Derain’s Charing Cross Bridge, the influence of Pointillism is clearly apparent.


Notable paintings in this movement include:


La Reit Verte, (The Green Line), or more commonly known as “Madame Matisse”, by Henri Matisse. 1905. Oil and tempera on canvas, 40.5 x 32.5 cm; Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Copenhagen


This painting of his wife is a classic example of what the Fauvists set out to achieve, namely, the use of colour to express and convey emotions. The composition centres around the main foreground image of Madame Matisse, but she is divided into distinct sections, primarily by the green strip, which runs down the centre of Madame Matisse’s face. The background colours of mauve, orange and blue green are juxtaposed against the foreground of dramatic palette of colour which forms Madam Matisse. The green line, separates the face in two. A conscious line of colour highlighting the divide of light and shadow.

Restaurant de la Machine à Bougival, (Restaurant “La Machine” at Bougival), by Maurice de Vlaminck. 1905. Oil on canvas. 60 x 81.5 cm; Collection Kaganovitch, Orsay Museum, Paris.


With its colour and brushstrokes, this painting by Maurice de Vlaminck, is reminiscent of the style of Vincent Van Gogh. Dynamic brush stokes and thickly applied paint were favoured by the Dutch master. It was following his observation of Van Gogh’s work that Maurice de Vlaminck decided to lighten his palette. Eventually graduating to the use of  paint straight from the tube, creating a burst of pure colours.


Barques des Pecheurs (Fishing Boats). By Albert Marquet. 1906. 85.5 x 92 cm; Oil on canvas. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire.

Albert Marquet’s simplified draftsmanship and expressive use of colour, reflects the Fauvist ideals. In Fishing Boats, the canvas is bursting with colour. Bold, thick lines, with thick contours mark the canvas, a contrast against the image which evokes a calm serenity.


At the end of the movement, the artists dispersed in various directions. Matisse moved from the Fauvist expressive use of colour to the more stylised Formalism.  Derain moved to more muted tones, influenced by cubism. Many came to work in a more expressive manner, merging into a new movement in art: Expressionism.

Expressionism is probably the most obvious movement that emerged from Fauvism, but it should be noted that Cubism, Surrealism, and even Pop Art show relation to the Fauvist collective consciousness. Fauvism: a short lived art movement, which exhibited only three times, with no concrete theories, but which influenced and shaped much of art in the 20th Century.



Pointillism: Colourist movement -1886

Pointillism was a painting technique conceived by French artist Georges-Pierre Seurat in the late 19th Century. It is sometimes alternatively known as Divisionism or Chromoluminarism, terms that Seurat used himself. However, the movement is best known as Pointillism, a term coined by art critics who ridiculed the works, in the late 1880’s. However, the term is now used without any negative connotations. Seurat’s interest was in the study of color theories and the effects of different linear structures. His Pointillist painting technique is a painstaking process of stippling minute dots of pure unmixed colour onto a canvas, in order to maintain a feeling of clarity and brightness.


Born into a wealthy Parisian family on December 2, 1859, Seurat studied art at the École des Beaux-Arts from 1878 to 1879. His tutor, Henri Lehmann, was a disciple of the great neoclassical artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. The young Seurat was strongly influenced by Millet, Francisco de Goya and Rembrandt. After graduating, and a one year call of duty at Brest Military Academy, he settled into a studio in Paris where he initially concentrated on black and white drawing, before his progress into the theory of Pointillism.


Seurat had the notion that painting and art could be approached in a scientific way. He wished to rely on rules of optics and perception. He also realised that the colours chosen and how paint was applied could affect the mood, or emotion, of a painting. Ie: Warm colours could make a painting seem more inviting, friendly, whilst dark colours and harsh lines could be perceived in a more disturbing way.  Most significantly the Pointillist technique relies upon a process known as “optical mixing” which is a phenomenon which occurs when two colours that are placed next to each other, which our eyes optically mix. Up close, a Pointillist painting can be somewhat confusing, a blur of colours. But, as the viewer creates more distance between himself or herself and the painting, the picture comes more into focus. This is due to the way the eyes and mind work together. Our eyes blend the dots of colour into a seamless image, in much the same way as we interpret pixels on a computer or television screen. This can be compared to the image created by a four colour printer, where the key colours are Magenta (red), Yellow, Cyan (Blue), and Key (Black). Computer monitors and television screens use a similar optical technique using Red, Green, and Blue (RGB). Optical mixing, rather than physical mixing of paint creates a picture that is more luminous, brighter.


The origins of Pointillism comes from Chevreuls colour wheel of primary and intermediary hues. Chevreuls was a French chemist who restored old tapestries. He realized that the only way to recreate the colours and restore sections of a tapestry accurately was to take into account the influences of the colours surrounding the missng wool. He discovered that when two juxtaposed colours overlapped, or at least, very close together, the effect would create another colour entirely, when viewed from a distance. He also came to realise the effect of retinal persistence. This is the phenomenon of complimentary colour ‘halo’ effect that one experiences after looking at a colour. Ie: After looking at the colour red, one may envision a cyan echo/halo of the original colour.  Neoimpressionist painters interested in colour interplay made use of this phenomenon in their paintings. Using colours that not only match the object being depicted, but adding colours and making adjustments to achieve a harmony. This notion of ‘harmony’ is what Seurat would later call as depicting ‘emotion’


During most of 1883 Seurat worked on his first major painting: Bathers at Asnières. (Oil on canvas, 201 cm × 300 cm; National Gallery, London). On completion it was submitted to the Salon de Paris (the official art gallery of the Académie des Beaux-Arts.) and was subsequently rejected. After the rejection he turned his back on conventional art establishments and allied himself with the independent artists of Paris. Alliances which formed the artists group: the Société des Artistes Indépendants. Through this group Seurat became acquainted with Paul Signac, whom he admire and supported for his systematic way of working and his theory of colours. They formed a strong bond of friendship based on mutual ideas and concepts about paint application. Seurat shared with Signac his new ideas for painting and both artists set about creating works with the Pointillism concept in mind.


In the summer of 1884 Seurat commenced work on a painting entitled ‘Un Dimanche a la Grande Jatte’ (Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte) (Oil on Canvas, 207.6 cm × 308 cm; Art Institute of Chicago) which would take him two years to complete, and which would become his masterpiece. This painting was the centerpiece of an exhibition in 1886 at The Exhibition of Independents. The painting represents a Sunday on the island of the Grande Jatte. A painting which is often referred to as his “Manifesto Painting,” The large canvas was the first painting to be fully executed in the Pointillist technique and the preparation for this piece required much groundwork: Sketches on panel, 25 drawings, and three significant preliminary studies. The painting is made up of a myriad of hues with a few differences in paint application. It would seem that Seurat did not follow any popular theories rigidly and is continuously experimenting in ways of applying colour and strokes.


By this time Seurat was producing one large painting each year. Seven monumental paintings, sixty smaller paintings, drawings and sketches, were the fruit of his short life. A very private individual, it was only after his sudden death in 1891 from diphtheria at age 31 years, that Suerat’s friends learnt of his mistress, Madeleine Knobloch, who was the model in his painting ‘Young Woman Holding a Powder Puff’, and who bore a son to him (a son which died two weeks also from diphtheria). Seurat was a man of modest means and lived a modest lifestyle. He abstained from alcohol, or alternative substances, and focused on his art. He was laid to rest in the Cimitiere du Pere-Lachaise in Paris, France on March 29th.


A few significant followers of Pointillism were: Georges-Pierre Seurat, Paul Signac, Henri-Edmond Cross, Charles Angrand, John Roy, Maximilien Luce, Vincent van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, Théo van Rysselberghe, Chuck Close, and Georges Lemmen


A few significant Pointillist paintings:


Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte) 1886 by Georges-Pierre Seurat. Oil on canvas, 207.6 x 308cm; Art Institute of Chicago.


Seurats “Manifesto Painting”. The first painting fully executed in the Pointillism style.


The Beach at Heist. 1891 by Georges Lemmen Oil on panel, 37 x 46 cm; Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.


Tiny round or oval dots layed horizontally on the canvas creates distinct colour zones.


Non-naturalistic contours evoke ‘emotion’ in the painting.


Afternoon at Pardigon by Henri-Edmond Cross 1907. Oil on canvas. 81 x 65 cm; Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.


Pointillist techniques laid foundations for new experiments within art, but eventually gave way to new differing art notions and concepts.