Tag Archives: Gas Hall

Victorian Radicals – the Pre-Raphaelites

IMG_4389The rather garish colours and attention to detail marked the work of those seven initial members of the Pre-Raphaelite Botherhood from that of their fellows. They followed the teachings of John Ruskin who encouraged getting back to nature and depicting that in finite detail. The figures in this portrait of ‘The Long Engagement’ by Arthur Hughes show the cleric looking skywards for divine inspiration perhaps, while his fiancée looks longingly at him in hope. The dark and light on their faces is a contrast emphasising this. His lowly stipend may well have delayed their marriage considerably. Despite the poignancy of the figures, the tree trunk in the foreground is perhaps more dominant than may be expected.



IMG_4391John Ruskin’s encouragement of getting back to Nature led to an almost photographic representation of foliage and flowers. The particular and carefully placed tiny brushstrokes on each leaf and the lichen is certainly not in anyway impressionistic! The time spent on depicting the vegetation in such detail must have been considerable.


IMG_4390But it is not only aspects of nature that were treated with such precision. The folds of fabric and the sheen of this satin or silk dress means that it looks as if it could be touched and the luxury of the fabric felt. Note, too, here the carefully depicted ferns and the hairs of the dog – what a shiny coat it has!





IMG_4387It wasn’t just men who were painting so carefully. Emma Sandys focused on portraits of women and children, and here is ‘A Young Woman Holding a Rose’. Note the detail in painting each petal of the rose, and the strands of glorious auburn hair entangled with her fingers.





IMG_4371Perhaps William Morris is the most well-known member of the Arts and Crafts movement. This is his design for wallpaper. It is an admirably balanced design, with the dark leaves and stems forming their own pattern within the design, and matched by the even spread of the bunches of jasmine flowers.





IMG_4373This enlargement shows the outline sketches of leaves and flowers before they are coloured.

The ‘Victorian Radicals’ exhibition is on in Birmingham at the Gas Hall of Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery until 30th October 2024 and is certainly worth visiting.