In pervious generations, Academia dictated Art appreciation and education for the masses. Art academies all over the world developed distinctive styles and created new ones as per their professors. The Royal Academy of Arts in various countries displayed student work routinely to the hoi polloi as a silent didactic tool of Good Taste. Students of Fine Arts and by virtue, High Culture, trained in these techniques and theories on the purpose of art and the artist’s role in society.
The academies denied admittance to many fine and highly talented artists for their inability to conform to the current artistic standards. Some of these rejects banded together to create a new art club outside the halls of Academia or they struggled to further their name alone. This anti-academy organizations were a bit avant-garde which appealed to the less presumptuous clientele or those who sought talent and beauty with disregard to any Royal stamp of approval.
Similar circumstances surrounded the beginnings of the painters of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the middle of the 19th century. These seven Romantic artists believed in natural beauty and raw technique. They believed Art should elevate an ideal, in this case the morals resided in Arthurian legends and the religious experience, medieval setting with allegorical enhancements. Their work is characterized with vibrant colors, high detail, and their shared model Elizabeth Siddal. She of the long, thick, auburn tresses and sensual lips. Her unconventional beauty caused quite a stir in the art world.
Most people are familiar with John William Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott and Edmund Leighton’s Godspeed, The Accolade; my favorite painter of the Brotherhood is John Everett Millais . . . after the Brotherhood disbanded and he became a “typical Victorian painter.” There is a certain cast of light to his work. The figures are in high detail and he has the ability to capture sweetness, innocence, and the slightest amusement in a subject’s face is most arresting. If you get the chance to peruse the millions of paintings the Pre-Raphaelite artists produced during and after the formation of the Brotherhood, do let me know whom you favor? Or if you favor the shared model and Rossetti’s wife, Elizabeth Siddal; for I really do not care for her . . .