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

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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

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  • 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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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 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.