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24 September 2014

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You are in: South Yorkshire > Entertainment > Culture > Features > Pre-Raphaelites at Graves

Pandora by Rosetti

Pre-Raphaelites at Graves

Graves Art Gallery displayed an exhibition of rare and delicate Pre-Raphaelite drawings.

:: Pre-Raphaelite Drawings ran at Graves Art Gallery until 8th September, 2007

Pre-Raphaelite Drawings at the Graves Gallery is an exhibition that sets out to show the creative processes of the Pre-Raphaelite artists and succeeds in throwing fresh light on a distinctive artistic movement.

Study for Nimji by William Holman Hunt

Formed in 1848, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was an informal group of artists, led by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais.

The Pre-Raphaelites rejected the influence of the Italian grandmaster Raphael, who was popular in the early-Victorian period. Instead they sought inspiration from earlier artists, who they considered to have a simpler and more natural style.

The exhibition focuses on preparatory sketches for larger paintings and while, at times, it inevitably feels insubstantial, there are many drawings that are successful in their own right.

The Pre-Raphaelites were known for their high-minded subject matters and paintings depicting complex literary or biblical scenes.  As the drawings concentrate solely on the figures within these scenes they reveal a more human side to the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

In William Holman Hunt’s ‘Study for Christ Child in The Triumph of the Innocents’ the extravagance of the religious scene is stripped away, leaving a far more tender depiction of the infant Christ lying in his mother’s arms, modelled on Hunt’s own son, Hilary.

Edward Burne Jones’ ‘Sleeping Maidens’, sketched for a painting based on Sleeping Beauty, shows two female figures, clinging to each other, as if they are characters adrift from their own story. The ghostly green and white tones, used instead of the Pre-Raphaelites’ typical muted red and browns, create a sinister image that taps into the dark unconscious of the fairytale.

Study for Sponsa de Libano by Edward Burne-Jones

Throughout Pre-Raphaelite art there is an obsession with the female muse and an idealised view of feminine beauty.

In Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s ‘Pandora’ the full lips and thick red hair of his favourite model, Jane Morris, are used to create an exotic and highly sexualised image of a mythical seductress.

Yet, in his drawings of Morris, such as his ‘Portrait Study of Woman’s Head for Aspecta Medusa', the literary symbolism is absent, and instead her natural beauty is emphasised. It is one of the few pieces in which a personal relationship between the artist and his subject can be felt.

The delicacy of pencil and charcoal forced the Pre-Raphaelites to simplify and this led them to show a more sensitive approach to their subjects. It is in the drawings, away from the mythologizing that dominates the well-known paintings, that the Pre-Raphaelites come closest to fulfilling their vision of returning art back to nature.

:: Pre-Raphaelite Drawings ran at Graves Art Gallery until 8th September, 2007

last updated: 22/10/07

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