The original rebels of British art revelled in the wonders of nature as opposed to the ideals of the Renaissance that were lauded by the Royal Academy. Their images of flame-haired women and tableaus of literary tales gained them worldwide acclaim, both at home and abroad. Here are some of the best places in London to experience the works of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, from painting and prints to stained glass.
As one might expect from a museum dedicated to British art, Tate Britain has some of the greatest works from the Pre-Raphaelite movement in its collection. It holds one of the most recognisable works of art in the world, Sir John Everett Millais’ Ophelia, which depicts the doomed Shakespearian heroine in a lake filled with flowers. The stunning portrait known as Monna Vanna or ‘vain woman’ by Dante Gabriel Rossetti depicts a gloriously poised woman in luxurious clothing, complete with ostentatious hair clips and a feather fan. The artist considered it one of his best works, stating that is was ‘probably the most effective as a room decoration that I have ever painted’.
Tate Britain, Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4RG, +44 20 7887 8888
Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)
When the V&A hired William Morris to decorate one of the new rooms for the first-ever museum café he had yet to find fame as one of the country’s greatest artists and designers. However, his signature Arts and Crafts style still permeates this beautiful gilded room, which he decorated with the help of his friends Philip Webb and Edward Burne-Jones. The museum’s collection also houses countless examples of William Morris’ textile designs and printing blocks, and a considerable number of photographs recording the lives of members of the brotherhood.
Guildhall Art Gallery
Guildhall Art Gallery is nestled within London’s Square Mile, moments from the Barbican and the bustle of the financial district. Among its important collection of Victorian art, there are some impressive works such as Millais’ Woodman’s Daughter and Rossetti’s La Ghirlandata, both of which were bequeathed to the gallery in 1902 by Charles Gassiot, a City wine merchant. Other highlights include Sir Edward Poynter’s epic Israel in Egypt.
Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard, London EC2V 5AE, +44 20 7332 3700
William Morris Gallery
The former childhood home of the Arts and Crafts pioneer is an award-winning gallery nowadays, featuring furniture, prints, textile designs, tapestries photographs and ephemera relating to his career as not only an artist and designer but a socialist campaigner. The gallery explores his printing techniques, deft craftsmanship and manifestos relating to workers’ rights. There are also plenty of examples of work created by his peers, including designs for stained glass windows by Edward Burne-Jones.
Lloyd Park House, 531 Forest Rd, Walthamstow, London E17 4PP +44 20 8496 4390
Leighton House Museum
Although Lord Frederic Leighton was a self-described enemy of the Pre-Raphaelites he had to admit that they shared an affinity with nature, poetic idealism and a distaste for traditional narrative, not to mention a tendency to paint beautiful women. He was even lauded by Rossetti, who saw him as a powerful adversary of the Brotherhood. Leighton’s incredible studio-home was the first of its kind when it was built and features an astonishing array of glazed tile work, vaulted ceilings, and a collection of the artist’s work, including one of the last pieces he ever painted titled Clytie.
12 Holland Park Rd, Kensington, London W14 8LZ, +44 20 7602 3316