The Illustrated Text

[Click on image to enlarge] Much as many Victorian novels were illustrated with engravings that represented and even enhanced their narratives, so Victorian editions of poetry often contained illustrations. The Pre-Raphaelites, a loosely associated group of painters working from the 1850s through the 1870s, were particularly engaged with picturing literary subjects. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of the movement's leading figures, was both a painter and a poet. All of the other artists of the group at one point or another illustrated nineteenth-century poems. An early project of the group was an illustrated edition of Tennyson's poems, prepared for the publisher William Moxon, known as Moxon's Illustrated Tennyson. Rossetti himself often painted companion pictures to his own poems, and he illustrated his sister Christina's poem Goblin Market.

[Click on image to enlarge] Pre-Raphaelitism, as a school of painting, resists simple definition. The Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood was founded in 1848 by seven young artists, among them Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, and John Everett Millais. They banded together to repudiate the academic style of painting of the time in order to return to what they felt were the purer principles of pre-Renaissance art. Their early painting, represented by works such as Rossetti's Ecce Ancilla Donime (The Annunciation) or Millais's Christ in the House of His Parents, combined a photographic fidelity to detail, foreshortened perspective, and a vivid palette. The Brotherhood soon split apart as each of its members cultivated his own style. A second phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement took shape around Rossetti and included writer and designer William Morris and painter Edward Burne-Jones. This second phase of Pre-Raphaelite art included much highly stylized painting of women, often as mythological figures.


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