In my professional life (where I’m a lecturer in English literature), I work on the Pre-Raphaelites. My specialty is poetry, but I love the art, as well. So I thought I’d do a painting inspired by Pre-Raphaelite art.
Now, PR art is defined by a few key features:
- Brilliance of the colours. This is because they eschewed the common techniques of 19th century painting (chiaroscuro, which created ‘muddy’ colours) in order to revive the techniques of Quattrocento art. They painted in thin glazes of pigment over a white ground, which created very vivid colours.
John Everett Millais, Lorenzo and Isabella 1848–9
2. A ‘flat’ style. Most PR paintings lack ‘depth’, with backgrounds very close behind the main figures. Here they rejected the rules of composition and perspective that were taught to young artists in the 19th century.
Example: Edward Burne-Jones, Laus Veneris 1873-75
The most famous PR painter (and poet!) is probably Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who, in addition to the two features above, specialized in half portraits of women, usually posed with flowers. These women–modeled on a few select models that Rossetti used over and over again–all shared very similar features. The two most prominent ones were red hair (a staple of PR art, as seen in the Burne-Jones painting above) and full lips. A few examples are:
Aurelia, 1879; Beata Beatrix, 1863; Lady Lilith, 1872-3; Proserpine, 1882
There are plenty more, but these give an overview, and also feature all four of his models: Fanny Cornforth, his wife Elizabeth Siddal, Alexa Wilding, and Jane Morris.
Now, I would never compare my art to Millais, Burne-Jones, or Rossetti, but I love both flowers and red hair, so I decided to work on a PR-inspired piece, using a fairly claustrophobic background and very saturated colours.
Blooming, 10×10″, watercolour
Now, it’s no PR masterpiece, but I’m pretty happy with how it turned out!
And here’s a close up of those full lips and that red hair!