Episode 1

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Episode 1 of 6

Duration: 1 hour

Drama series set in and among the alleys, galleries and flesh-houses of 19th-century industrial London, following the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a vagabond group of English painters, poets and critics.

Some artists want lasting fame. Some want money. Others want sex. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood want all of it. These ambitious young men - the darkly handsome Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the brilliant and conflicted William Holman Hunt, and the preternaturally talented John Millais - are out to rock the art world with a style of painting that is, according to them, more true, real and heartfelt than anything seen for 300 years.

Unfortunately, the art world isn't much interested in a bunch of young iconoclasts raging against the 'Establishment' of the Royal Academy - particularly when one of that set, the shamelessly arrogant Rossetti, has yet to learn to paint.

The boys need to step up a gear, and so they set out to find a muse to inspire their best work yet. Cue Fred Walters - an aspiring young journo and longtime fan of the boys. Fred spots the dazzling and radiant redhead, Lizzie Siddal, at the back of a hatshop, and introduces her to the boys. They are thoroughly bewitched by Lizzie and before long are squabbling over who'll get to paint her first (and fall in love with her too, of course).

Next, they must find an influential figure to champion their work. Again with the help of Fred, they set about wooing the leading art critic of the day, the great John Ruskin. But given their lack of kudos, can they persuade Ruskin to make an appearance at an exhibition of their work? And, if they can persuade him to come, will their work be good enough to convince him to lend them his weighty support?

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  • Writer: Peter Bowker discusses Episode 1

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    Find out why writer, Peter Bowker, sees the characters as young punks and why he invented Fred Walters.

  • Cast Interview: Rafe Spall plays William Holman Hunt

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    Discover how Rafe Spall plays his complicated character, William Holman Hunt, as a 'headbutting' Victorian gentleman.

  • Cast Interview: Sam Crane plays Fred Walters

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    Sam Crane explains how his character, Fred Walters, gets in with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and how the director made some awkward demands of him.

  • Send a Sonnet: Lovesight by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

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    Share this sonnet with someone special by clicking the 'Share' button above. Here Rossetti, played by Aidan Turner, speaks of his love for love itself; how it gives his life meaning and how his world would be so much darker for its loss.

Credits

William 'Maniac' Holman Hunt
Rafe Spall
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Aidan Turner
John Ruskin
Tom Hollander
John Millais
Samuel Barnett
Fred Walters
Sam Crane
Effie Ruskin
Zoe Tapper
Lizzie Siddal
Amy Manson
Annie Miller
Jennie Jacques
Mr Stone
Phil Davies
Mr Siddal
Ian Puleston-Davies
Mrs Siddal
Polly Kemp
Charlotte Siddal
Josie Farmiloe
Mr Chadwick
Mark Benton
Charles Dickens
Mark Heap
Margaret
Maimie McCoy
Madame
Kath Burlinson
Director
Paul Gay
Producer
Ben Evans
Executive Producer
Hilary Salmon
Executive Producer
Franny Moyle
Writer
Peter Bowker

Broadcasts

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