Victorian Art & Design
The Founding of the Pre-Raphaelites

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, or P.R.B., was founded in 1848 by three young artists, Millais, Holman Hunt and D.G.Rossetti.  Millais met Hunt when they were both sketching Greek sculpture.  Later other students heard them criticising Raphael's painting, The Transfiguration, so they called them 'Pre-Raphaelites'. This was an apt name for them as they admired the early Italian painters before Raphael.

This is a pen and ink self portrait of Rossetti, another student at the Royal Academy. In 1848 Hunt heard him praising his painting The Eve of Saint Agnes at the Royal Academy Exhibition.   Rossetti and the other Pre-Raphaelites were very critical of the art teaching in the Royal Academy schools. They could not understand why trees had to be brown, not green, nor why figures should be arranged in an S curve or a pyramid. So, in the autumn of 1848, Millais, Hunt and Rossetti invited four others to join with them in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood or P.R.B..  Other artists besides the seven are also considered to be Pre-Raphaelites.  They include Ford Madox Brown who nearly received an invitation to join.  Some others are Arthur Hughes and the Liverpool artist, William Windus.  Burne-Jones is usually considered to be a Pre-Raphaelite, but was Burne-Jones a Pre-Raphaelite?

The first paintings by the P.R.B. were exhibited in 1849.  The first was The Girlhood of Mary Virgin by Rossetti, shown at the Free Exhibition.  At the 1849 Royal Academy were Hunt's painting, Rienzi and Millais' scene from a poem by Keats, Lorenzo and Isabella.  This shows Lorenzo seated next to Isabella at a meal.  He passes her a blood orange, watched by her two cruel brothers who later murder him.  
The Pre-Raphaelites in 1850.