Friday, 3 July 2009
The Pre-Raphaelites Episode 3
Episode 3 of The Pre-Raphaelites documentary on BBC4 focused on how the PRB attained riches and celebrity with their paintings. By the 1860's they had outgrown the status of avant-garde and started producing art for the masses. With the help of dealers like Ernest Gambart. There were three essential ways that the artists became top celebrities: selling works of art for profit, taking them on tour with gaslight showings costing a shilling to view and making engravings. It had become much easier to make engravings and prints were so good they could sell limited editions for a great deal of money. The prints made it possible to reach a great deal of people and raise the artists' profile.
Holman Hunt became a millionaire and his work began to be seen worldwide rather than just in the UK. Gambart the dealer, bought the copyright in Hunt's Light of the World and it toured the Empire, New Zealand and South Africa, making it the most famous painting in the world at that time.
Rossetti, who did not like exhibiting anymore was able to sell his work through private dealers and commissions.
The PRB which began as a close knit Brotherhood started to fragment. Hunt and Ruskin were horrified by the erotic route that Rossetti's work was going down. Millais began to specialise in commercial portraiture following in the footsteps of Sir Joshua Reynolds. In 1885 he was made a Baronet and his painting of Bubbles marked him out as the ultimate commercial artist. This has never stopped - his painting of Ophelia is still the best selling image in the Tate Bookshop. The ideals they began with which were so similar were left behind as they each started to follow their own interests. The PRB had revolutionised British art and the principles which had dominated it since the Renaissance.
Posted by Teresa Howard at Friday, July 03, 2009