Founded in London in 1848, a secret society of young artists (and one writer) who were opposed to the Royal Academy’s promotion of the ideal as exemplified in the work of Raphael

Introduction to the Pre-Raphaelite movement

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  • Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, 'Ophelia' 1851-2

    Sir John Everett Millais, Bt
    Ophelia 1851-2
    Oil on canvas
    support: 762 x 1118 mm frame: 1105 x 1458 x 145 mm
    Presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894

    View the main page for this artwork

  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 'Ecce Ancilla Domini! (The Annunciation)' 1849-50

    Dante Gabriel Rossetti
    Ecce Ancilla Domini! (The Annunciation) 1849-50
    Oil on canvas
    support: 724 x 419 mm frame: 1002 x 698 x 88 mm
    Purchased 1886

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  • William Holman Hunt, 'The Awakening Conscience' 1853

    William Holman Hunt
    The Awakening Conscience 1853
    Oil on canvas
    support: 762 x 559 mm frame: 1060 x 857 x 97 mm
    Presented by Sir Colin and Lady Anderson through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1976

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  • John William Waterhouse, 'The Lady of Shalott' 1888

    John William Waterhouse
    The Lady of Shalott 1888
    Oil on canvas
    support: 1530 x 2000 mm frame: 2000 x 2460 x 230 mm
    Presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894

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  • Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt, 'The Golden Stairs' 1880

    Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt
    The Golden Stairs 1880
    Oil on canvas
    support: 2692 x 1168 mm frame: 3162 x 1637 x 122 mm
    Bequeathed by Lord Battersea 1924

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  • Henry Wallis, 'Chatterton' 1856

    Henry Wallis
    Chatterton 1856
    Oil on canvas
    support: 622 x 933 mm frame: 905 x 1205 x 132 mm
    Bequeathed by Charles Gent Clement 1899

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  • William Morris, 'La Belle Iseult' 1858

    William Morris
    La Belle Iseult 1858
    Oil on canvas
    support: 718 x 502 mm frame: 960 x 755 x 61 mm
    Bequeathed by Miss May Morris 1939

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  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 'Proserpine' 1874

    Dante Gabriel Rossetti
    Proserpine 1874
    Oil on canvas
    support: 1251 x 610 mm frame: 1605 x 930 x 85 mm
    Presented by W. Graham Robertson 1940

    View the main page for this artwork

The name Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood referred to the groups’ opposition to the Royal Academy’s promotion of the Renaissance master Raphael. They were also in revolt also against the triviality of the immensely popular genre painting of time.

Inspired by the theories of John Ruskin, who urged artists to ‘go to nature’, they believed in an art of serious subjects treated with maximum realism. Their principal themes were initially religious, but they also used subjects from literature and poetry, particularly those dealing with love and death. They also explored modern social problems.

Its principal members were  William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. After initial heavy opposition the Pre-Raphaelites became highly influential, with a second phase of the movement from about 1860, inspired particularly by the work of Rossetti, making major contribution to symbolism.

Further reading

Why were the Pre-Raphaelite’s so shocking?
Find out why Pre-Raphaelite artworks were considered objectionable and morally shocking when they were first painted in the nineteenth century

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde exhibition
This exhibition, which was on display at Tate Britain in 2012, presented the Pre-Raphaelites as an avant-garde movement. Read the room guide and see which works were on display

Pre-Raphaelite works in focus

 Ophelia

Ophelia learning resource
John Everett Millais’s Ophelia 1851–2 was part of the original Henry Tate Gift in 1894 and remains one of the most popular Pre-Raphaelite works in Tate’s collection. Use this learning resource to examine the work in detail including the subject, meaning and symbolism in the painting, Millais materials and techniques as well as the conservation of the artwork and an introduction to the artist.

 Isabella

Curator Jason Rosenfeld reveals the story behind John Everett Millais’s painting Isabella (which was on loan to Tate Britain from the Walker Art Gallery in 2012).

The Pre-Raphaelites in context

The Pre-Raphaelites were active in the mid-nineteenth century. Watch curator Allison Smith discuss what else was happening at the time in the art world.

Other perspectives on the Pre-Raphaelites

Lucinda Hawksley on Ophelia
Read this personal interpretation of Millais’s Ophelia, focusing on the sensations of water

Women and the Pre-Raphaelites

Three modern muses, Karen Elson, Daisy Lowe and Laura Bailey, meet the women at the heart of the Pre-Raphaelite movements most celebrated paintings – Elizabeth Siddal, Christina Rossetti and ‘Lady Lillith’

The Pre-Raphaelites in detail

Sugar, Salt and Curdled Milk: Millais and the Synthetic Subject
This research article by Carol Jacobi examines the sexual imagery of particular paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais

Conserving John Everett Millais’s Hearts are Trumps 1872
Find out about the frame and painting conservation project on Millais’s Hearts are Trumps before it went on display in 2012

Other Pre-Raphaelite collections in the UK