For me, that was in the form of Timothy Hilton's 1970 classic The Pre-Raphaelites published by Thames and Hudson, which was on sale in the Waterstones on my summer school campus. I stand by that book as my base-camp for exploring the lovely Brotherhood, but it is a product of its time and many of the illustrations are in black and white. While Laurence des Cars and Francisca Garvie's Pre-Raphaelites: Romance and Realism is colour and marvellous, it is small, pocket sized, which is handy but not if you want a good wallow. So, enter one of my Christmas presents this year...
The lovely Miss Holman (Resting Ninja) bought it for me from my Amazon Wishlist, although she was slightly puzzled by why I would want such a general book. Now while I did not expect to be told anything new (yes, I am that arrogant, get me) I was very interested in how the information was to be organised, and how that might be of use to me in my work. And I was not disappointed.
|Study for the Head of Mariana (1851) J E Millais|
|A Wife J E Millais|
The Brotherhood (or at least the 'big three') kick it all off and you get a 17 page gallop through Millais' life from birth to death, coupled with 38 pictures. Millais isn't my major passion so I managed to find pictures I hadn't seen before, like the above study for Mariana (gorgeous) and The Wife, and it was interesting to see his life and career condensed down.
Moving on to Rossetti, and he gets an extra couple of pages, reflecting his continued Pre-Raph status (unlike Millais who went all popular). If you imagine entire, enormous books are written on Rossetti's life, then to pack his life and art into 19 pages isn't bad, and Robinson does cover an awful lot of ground, if superficially. There are little blue boxes of text that cover specific subjects, such as the Grosvenor Gallery, Kelmscott Manor and Chelsea, so if you are dipping in and out you can take what you want.
|Mrs Sarah Wilson, the Artist's Sister W H Hunt|
|Christ Among the Doctors (1887) W H Hunt|
Part Two is entitled 'The Gallery' and covers the chronology of the art, rather than the personalities behind it. This way you can see that these two paintings were done the same year...
|Convent Thoughts C Collins|
|Mariana J E Millais|
Okay, you probably aren't shocked by that, both come from 1851. How about these two...?
|Danae (1888) E Burne-Jones|
|Oh come on, I'm not labeling this (1888)|
As the time rolls on, you begin to see how different works cross paths, and how artists who you would not normally think of together (especially if you are organising a big exhibition on Pre-Raphaelitism, apparently) existed together, working to the same ends.
Interestingly, the book ends with the end of the nineteenth century, with works like Hunt's Lady of Shalott and Waterhouse's The Awakening of Adonis. Gosh, I love that picture, hang on...
|The Awakening of Adonis (1899) J W Waterhouse|
|Dream of Sardanapalus (1871) Ford Madox Brown|