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Famous Paintings by Pre-Raphaelite Artists

England, 1848. A student at the Royal Academy of Arts, Dante Rossetti, went to an exhibition organized by the Academy and met Holman Hunt, whose paintings he came to see. The two artists became friends. They spent a lot of time together, shared their ideas and thoughts. Hunt's support and friendly advice helped Rossetti complete his painting The Girlhood of Mary Virgin, on which he then worked.

Soon, the friends were joined by John Millais, a highly talented young painter who was accepted into the academy at the age of 11. The trio shared not only the love of art, but also the opinion that English painting had to be revived: the bonds of clichés, conventions and academism had led it to a standstill. The friends considered the return to the ideas of Italian art of the Early Renaissance to be the most appropriate way of doing it. For that purpose, they organized the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – a secret group of artists whose members were inspired by the works of painters who preceded Raphael (hence the name "Pre-Raphaelites", i.e. "before Raphael"): Giovanni Bellini, Fra Angelico, Sandro BotticelliPietro Perugino and others.

The Pre-Raphaelite artists were guided by the principles of genuineness and naturalness: they painted works from nature, while their friends and close relatives served as models. In addition, they came out against the established methods of painting and used a drawing technique that was fundamentally different from the generally accepted one.

The first two years were the most difficult for the Brotherhood. The artists and their works were jumped all over: for example, a 1850 painting by John Millais, Christ in the House of His Parents, caused a big fuss that caught the attention of Queen Victoria. A little later, members of the Brotherhood organized their own exhibition, but not a single work by the Pre-Raphaelite painters was sold. The press published several smashing articles (the author of one of them was Charles Dickens), and it seemed that everything was unravelling.

However, art critic John Ruskin, who was respected in society, put a thumb in the dike. He praised the works displayed at the exhibition and called them the beginning of a new movement in painting, which would "lay in England the foundations of a school of art nobler than the world has seen for 300 years." Ruskin’s support radically changed the public’s attitude towards the Pre-Raphaelites: their paintings were a success at the exhibitions; the Brotherhood was mentioned in newspapers and weekly papers. This lasted until 1853, when the Brotherhood dissolved. Its members continued to create works in a new style, improving it, introducing elements of eroticism and turning the artistic genius and beauty of the world into a cult.

Today, many paintings by Pre-Raphaelite artists adorn art galleries and museums. The list of such works includes Medea by Evelyn De Morgan (the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum), La Belle Iseult by William Morris (Tate), Lady Lilith by Rossetti (the Delaware Art Museum) and others.
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