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In the late 1840s, the exclusively British Pre-Raphaelite movement appeared in Victorian society in London. Three young students from the Royal Academy were the instigators – William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), John Everett Millais (1829-1896), and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882).

At that time, British painting was at an impasse, pinned down by strict conventions and restricted by the tastes of a clientele that delighted in small genre scenes, usually full of mawkish sentimentality and conveying a moral message. The art was vulgar in the eyes of the three students in revolt, who wanted to “turn the minds of men to good reflection”, as Millais used to say, through paintings that would elevate the spectator’s thinking.

In their view, it was academic teaching, unable to free itself from the aesthetic rules set down in the Renaissance, that was directly responsible for this creative sclerosis. Their group quickly expanded with the arrival of four new members, each with a very different profile: Thomas Woolner (1825-1892), sculptor and poet; James Collinson (1825-1881), student at the Royal Academy; William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919), Dante Gabriel’s brother and a civil servant at the Excise Office at the time; and Frederick Georges Stephens (1828-1907), a painting student with little talent who would later turn to writing and art criticism.

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