I’m fascinated by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (or more trendily the PRB) in how they rebelled against a stuffy and resistant Victorian society and changed the face of British art. Most people can recognise a Rossetti or a Millais but the other PRB associates are equally significant. John Ruskin supported the group and his own studies of nature are some of the finest, in my opinion. His work was based on his continued belief that the role of the artist was “truth to nature”. John Millais painted the most exquisite landscapes and intriguingly, some of the Plein air locations he found have never been identified. Now there’s a challenge to go and find them.
Once again, I’m drawn to the rough sketches of an artist as it reveals their inspiration, daily thoughts and creative flow. The range of techniques in this exhibition was very diverse which highlights that the pre-raphaelite style was not restrictive. In fact, each technique allowed the artist to reveal something different in their subject, be that the light cast on a model or the subtle detail of a distant landscape.
Being the nature and detail obsessed artist that I am, Ruskin’s work resonated the most for its intense studies of plants and usually mundane natural subjects. I like how Ruskin recommended an artist draw ivy around the base of a tree as a warmup exercise. The figurative work of the other Pre-Raphaelite artists is simply astounding and only encourages me to try harder, get better and just continue to sketch for as long as it takes.