The group was centred round pop artist Peter Blake after his move from London to the countryside near Bath. The full name was The Brotherhood of Ruralists and this, combined with the original number of seven members, gives a conscious echo of the nineteenth-century Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which the Ruralists deeply admired.
The ruralists aimed to revive and update the vein of imaginative painting of romantic figure subjects in idyllic rural settings, in a style of high precision realism, found in the early work of the Pre-Raphaelites. The painting Ophelia by John Everett Millais was a talismanic example. They also looked to the earlier visionary landscapes of Samuel Palmer and The Ancients. The children’s book Alice In Wonderland and its illustrations by John Tenniel and Arthur Rackham were another source of inspiration.
Blake, Hayworth and Inshaw left the group in the early 1980s but the Arnolds and Ovendens continued to exhibit.