A Day With the Pre-Raphaelites

I had been late to class one day and probably missed all of Professor Hensley’s lesson regarding the Pre-Raphaelites and their works of art. Therefore, my first encounter with them came when I went to the National Gallery of art for our close viewing assignment. From the moment I entered the exhibit, until the moment I left, I felt as if I were in a giant story book. The paintings were simply powerful renditions of popular stories. In addition to the pairing that I chose for my close viewing, (The Shadow of Death by William Holman Hunt) a painting that struck me deeply as representative of the exhibit, was “Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet” by Ford Madox Brown. This story is a very famous biblical event and the painting seemed to dramatize it in a way that struck me profoundly. For one, every set of eyes in the painting was focused on Jesus’ hands washing Peter’s feet. Jesus’ eyes were focused on that spot, in addition to Peter’s eyes and the eyes of every individual depicted in the painting. The artist also appears to use brighter coloration around the very middle of the painting where the feet washing is taking place. Bringing more drama to the scene and the event being captured, is the fact that while every set of eyes is focused on the feet washing, behind each set of eyes is a face that tells a story in an of itself. Some of the apostles appear worried, others intrigued, some stunned. Whatever the emotion may be, there clearly is an emotion behind every face drawn. The way in which the painting was drawn made me see an action taking place, in spite of the fact that in reality the image was static.
Earlier today I happened accross this video that seeks to describe the movement, and the descriptions given of the pre-raphaelites in terms of how they intended create art and engage the viewer resonated with how I felt during the exhibit.
Please watch at least the first few minutes of part 1 of a special series on the Pre-Raphaelites.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4d5nVoso70

Afterwards, ask yourself, was their anything provocative that stood out to me in the exhibit, did it have any personal impact on me, on the way I view a certain literay character or view an event?

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1 Response to A Day With the Pre-Raphaelites

  1. Laura Tonnessen says:

    Thank you for posting this video. It was very helpful to get more information on the Pre-Raphaelite movement. I agree with what you said about the paintings being like pictures out of a storybook. I was most taken with the emphasis that many of the painters put on human relationships in their paintings and making the emotions between the figures as realistic as possible. For example, I was very taken with Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s rendition of the Virgin Mary receiving the news that she was pregnant from the angel Gabriel. Unlike most other paintings of the annunciation, one can see the fear and almost repulsion that Mary feels. Rossetti’s version looks more like a rape scene than a joyful announcement. I can imagine that this take on such a famous Biblical scene would have been controversial and a good example of how the Pre-Raphaelite movement was very provocative for its time.

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