Friday, April 27, 2012

Millais' Big Night

The first cartoons I did are a bit rougher than later ones because I didn't know at the time I'd be showing them to anyone else. This one is in the process of being cleaned up and inked (as the others will be as well) and I will post that version at a later date...

This being the first of my historical notes about the Pre-Raphs, this may be a little long-winded until you get to know the guys, but here we go:

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was essentially a group of seven young men who were fed up with the artistic standards of the Royal Academy and wanted to do something new... but based on the very old. They were enamored by European artwork produced before the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael (thus "Pre-Raphaelite") and wanted to paint other things besides stuffy nobility. They wanted to go back to painting nature as well as myths and legends. Also they wanted to use BRIGHT COLORS. (The horror!)

This notion was so radical in the art world of Victorian England they decided to become a 7-man "secret society" who signed their paintings with the mysterious initials "PRB." (No one outside the group could figure out what it meant--anything from "Please Ring Bell" to Rossetti's favorite, "Penis Rather Better.") When the secret was revealed, all hell broke loose. Chaos ensued. People ran screaming in the streets... No, I exaggerate. There was a lot of scandal and it would be this way for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood for quite awhile.

Until they became great successes. And the first PRB to become successful was their youngest member, John Everett Millais.

With this painting:

John Everett Millais

The three most famous members of the original seven PRB were:

  Dante Gabriel Rossetti

While there was some bickering between Rossetti and Holman Hunt about who was the "leader" of the PRB it was without doubt that Rossetti was the most charismatic of the core three. Not as successful as the others (at first--he would come into his own famously much later) Gabriel, the son of an Italian exile, was a lanquid charmer and poet, had a problem with authority and was a favorite with the ladies.

 He was obsessed with medieval art and his namesake Dante Alighieri. ("Dante's Inferno".)


        William Holman Hunt

 Nicknamed "Mad" or"Maniac" (presumably for his  "insane work ethics") Holman Hunt was quite possibly the scariest of the PRB. Sturdy, athletic and a boxer, he was also extremely religious, got offended easily and was known for painting a goat at the Dead Sea while holding a rifle in his lap to fend off marauders.

His paintings are almost psychedelic in their use of bright color and detailed to the last button and leaf.

 John Everett Millais

The youngest ever Royal Academy member (he was eleven when he was accepted), Millais was a child prodigy of privilege but this didn't stop him from being bullied at the Academy as a boy. (He was once found hanging upside down from a balcony.) So it was to everyone's shock when he was found to be running with the Pre-Raph pack. Easygoing by nature, he was very, very intense when it came to his artwork and also a bit vain. (He especially liked his own profile which he showed frequently to cameras...)

When their "secret identities" were revealed to the public, there was a lot and scorn and derision hurled at the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (most famously by Charles Dickens himself--subject of a future cartoon and post) and so it was an incredible miracle that the person who finally championed them was the most influential art critic in England:

   John Ruskin

  When things were at their worst for the PRB, it was John Ruskin's praise for them (and patronage) that turned these rebellious young men into artistic superstars.

           Ruskin also had a very pretty young wife and a very
                              big secret...
Effie Gray.
And John Ruskin would regret the day she was ever introduced to
 John Everett Millais...
                                          More on this development in later cartoons.

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