Formed in the autumn of 1848, the Pre-Raphaelites were a group of nineteenth-century British painters, poets, and critics who reacted against the contemporary Victorian trend towards materialism, and against the neo-classical conventions of academic art.
The group, initially comprising Rossetti, his brother William, James Collinson, the sculptor Thomas Woolner as well as Hunt and Millais, specialised in detailed studies of medieval scenes strong on elaborate symbolism and noble themes.
The name was decided upon as the group aimed to rediscover the painting styles of artists working earlier than the time of Raphael.
This close knit circle did eventually expand to include Ford Maddox Brown and James Abbot McNeil Whistler.
This high point of the Pre-Raphaelites was reached when John Millais’ Ophelia (see above) was exhibited to great acclaim at the Academy Exhibition.
Soon after the group dissolved.
Rossetti, together with William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones formed an alternative Brotherhood based in Oxford, specialising in the depiction of pale, ethereal beauties, while Millais and Hunt went their separate ways but continued working according to the original ideas of the movement.
Pre-Raphaelitism was highly successful during the Victorian era and continued into the early 20th century with artists such as Maxwell Armfield and Frank Cadogan Cowper before becoming out-moded in the 1920s.