Who are the Pre-Raphaelites?
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood formed in 1848, rejecting that Italian Renaissance artist Raphael, who preceded the Mannerists, represented the peak of aesthetic achievement. Instead they favoured the early Renaissance art, hence the brotherhood’s name, before Raphael… (make your own mind on Raphael at the current Louvre exhibition: my view here.)
Why are they important to British art?
Although it may be hard now to see how the PRB was avant-garde, the pre-raphaelites were revolutionary in their times, disrespectful and “anti-establishment”. The Pre-raphaelites were the first British modern art movement, taking a fresh look to the early Italian Renaissance style, with a special focus on representing nature.
I believe the most interesting part of the exhibition was the PRB’s religious paintings that were extremely realist. For instance, Millais represented Christ and his family in a carpenter workshop and without the title and context, it could well be a simple family portrait. The Beauty room is a pleasure for the eye, just for the sake of celebrating female beauty. All in all, the Tate Britain exhibition is for the art curious, at least to go home with knowledge on this important British art movement.