- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition edition (November 15, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691070571
- ISBN-13: 978-0691070575
- Product Dimensions: 9 x 1.2 x 11.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #644,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites First Edition Edition
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As Prettejohn notes, so much has been written on those mid-nineteenth-century English art radicals, the Pre-Raphaelites, that some bookstores have separate sections to accommodate all the tomes about them. How could anything exciting remain to be said about them? Well, for many art lovers, what Prettejohn says will be pretty intriguing. She takes the extreme reactions to Pre-Raphaelite painting, then and now, seriously; looks again and more thoroughly at the meticulous realism, even lighting, clashing colors, and multiple foci in their paintings; and suggests a new story about the development of modern art, from Pre-Raphaelitism to symbolism to surrealism to pop art to postmodernism. If that doesn't pique art book readers' interest, perhaps Prettejohn's attention to the female Pre-Raphaelites, or her consideration of gender and sexuality in Pre-Raphaelite art, or the luscious reproductions of virtually all the famous and many lesser-known but entrancing Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces will. Art libraries, consider this book essential. Ray Olson
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"The first combined study of these artists to appear in 15 years. There have been [other] books . . . but not the combined, thoroughgoing overview of their lives, thoughts, and, most of all, techniques that Prettejohn accomplishes here . . . Highly recommended."--Library Journal
"Comprehensively illustrated, clearly written and introduces the reader to many invigorating new ideas."--Times Literary Supplement
"[Prettejohn] suggests a new story about the development of modern art, from Pre-Raphaelitism to symbolism to surrealism to pop art to postmodernism. If that doesn't piqu art book reader's interest, perhaps. . . the luscious reproductions of virtually all the famous and many lesser known but entrancing Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces will."--Booklist
"Who were the Pre-Raphaelites, and what was their art like? Prettejohn . . . addresses these questions with sensitivity, careful attention, and scholarly expertise in this gorgeous book . . . The author argues that Pre-Raphaelite art requires long, close scrutiny. Her book equally merits lingering and absorbing attention."--Karen McCarthy, ForeWord
"A valuable study that will appeal to art historians and those familiar with this seminal movement in English art. The 200 illustrations (many in detail) are all in excellent color."--Choice
"Prettejohn has not only brought together so many of this time period's masterpieces, but has also provided the history and means with which to realize the full impact of these paintings. . . . If reading about art doesn't sound too exhilarating, this book will spark interest just from a momentary view of the enchanting paintings inside."--Felice Ballester, Bloomsbury Review
"Prettejohn's study is well-written, her research and knowledge of the period are commendable, and many of her arguments have merit and originality. . . This book goes a long way in offering some fresh visions of a favorite subject."--Susan P. Casteras, Pre-Raphaelite Studies
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Top customer reviews
Prettejohn's main thesis is that Pre-Raphaelitism was an avant-garde movement and much of the book is taken up by explaining the way in which the movement was truly revolutionary. Unlike the French Impressionists, who attacked the establishment from below with everyday scenes and landscapes, the Pre-Raphaelites attacked the Royal Academy from above with paintings dealing with serious issues of politics, religion and literature. But it was the way that they made these paintings that was revolutionary. Instead of organising their pictures in the traditional manner using masses of light and shadow, with a central theme, the Pre-Raphaelites organised their paintings in patterns of line and bright colour that abhorred symmetry. These features can be seen in the great painting, Isabella, done in 1849 when Millais was just 19. In contrast to the traditional hierarchical approach, in which the less important elements of a painting are subordinated to the more important, the Pre-Raphaelites did not prejudge what was important. They started with the particular and allowed the whole to emerge. So when we look at a Pre-Raphaelite painting, we become immersed in the detail, the smallest element that can be given its own distinctive identity. In this form of `realism' there is no need to conceptualise in advance some larger truth of the whole. "The Pre-Raphaelites empower us to see more than we expect: more colour, more detail, more light. They never relieve us from the intense effort to see as much as possible, or even more. This may be disconcerting or even frightening. But it may also be exhilarating." (note the elegance of Prettejohn's writing). Prettejohn argues that the Pre-Raphaelite insistence on preserving the individual identity of each detail contravenes traditional demands for pictorial unity more dramatically than the Impressionists did. She suggests that the Pre-Raphaelites' approach should be seen not just as an act of defiance but as a coherent set of techniques for seeing the world afresh, for calling previously unregarded `truths' to attention. Prettejohn claims that Pre-Raphaelite pictures consistently give us more to look at than most other kinds of visual art. "The pictures do not prescribe a hierarchy of viewing patterns that might finalise the interpretative process. Instead they encourage us never to stop looking, or stop thinking about what we see.... that is the distinctive character of the art of the Pre-Raphaelites."
The book includes an excellent chapter on the rather neglected women artists of the Pre-Raphaelite time, a useful glossary of names, a chronology and an extensive annotated bibliography. Fortunately, the publishers have done the author proud: the illustrations are superb: sharp, and accurate in tone and colour balance.
This truly wonderful book is full of deep insights; almost every other page has some striking point that makes you think. It is safe to predict that no-one who reads this book will ever feel or think as they used to about these great artists.
In addition, the author gives a rich history of the artists and their art and includes the art created by the female Pre-Raphaelite artists in the first part of the book, "Stories of Pre-Raphaelitism." The second part, "Studies in Pre-Raphaelitism" discusses recent research in such subjects as technique, Pre-Raphaelite realism, gender and sexuality, and contexts for Pre-Raphaelitism. The book is articulately written and free from the erudite jargon of art history. It is a book that will inform and delight both the general reader and the informed art historian.
Ms Prettejohn does a noble job of defending Pre-Raphaelite art and as a devotee I have no real argument with her position. Nevertheless, I'm not sure I believe that non-appreciation of Pre-Raphaelite art is due only to the heirarchy of Western Art (i.e. it is "politically correct" to prefer Monet to Hunt). It is possible that the Pre-Raphaelites were . . . well . . . just not as good as their Impressionist neighbors. I'm not an Impressionist fan myself. On the other hand, I LIKE Raphael.
Whether or not the Pre-Raphaelites are good or great or master painters, they deserve thorough study. This Ms Prettejohn has accomplished.
Recommendation: It's beautiful. Buy it, especially if you a Pre-Raphaelite devotee.