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My Favorite Pre-Raphaelite Works of Art

  • May 21, 2010
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I've been in love with the Pre-Raphaelite artists and their paintings for as long as I can remember (certainly since before I actually knew what Pre-Raphaelite art was). The paintings that I've selected below are a fairly good sampling of some of the most beautiful, sensual, and empowering images of femininity during the Victorian Era. Rather than place these paintings into a rank, I have listed my favorite artists in this movement, and then below their names included my favorite paintings by them in the order in which they were completed. It should also be noted that I've not included my reasons for placing these works on this list, since many of them are on other lists that I've done, as well as the fact that it should be quite obvious by now what my artistic tastes are like, but I am including some random thoughts and comments.
John William Waterhouse (J.W. Waterhouse)
The master of Pre-Raphaelite art in my opinion. Waterhouse produced the greatest number of Pre-Raphaelite art that I love.
Every time I see this painting I can't help but start hearing "Greensleeves" in my head. Go figure.
Hylas and the Nymphs
Something about those nymphs' eyes is irresistibly sexy and flirtatious.
The Lady of Shalott
Every time I see this painting Tennyson's poem springs to mind.
A Mermaid
The perfect depiction of a mermaid. Disney take note.
Lamia (Waterhouse Version I)
The most tender depiction of Lamia I've seen. Not as cold as Draper's or as vain as Waterhouse's second version.
John Collier
Collier's another master and his mythology-inspired stuff is simply incredible.
Other than the Burney Relief, I can't think of any depiction of Lilith that could be more iconic.
Lady Godiva
Sexy and introspective. I like Collier's bold use of color here, which isn't normally his style since he stick with earth-tones most of the time.
Queen Quinevere's Maying
One of my favorite paintings on this list. The quintessential Guinevere.
The Water Nymph (Collier)
Again, sexy and introspective. Collier was great at showing the psychological complexity of his female subjects.
Edward Burne-Jones
Often considered the most popular of the Pre-Raphaelites, I love Edward Burne-Jones' work, though I wish more of it was available to the public and less of it were being held in private collectors' possession. Have a heart Andrew Lloyd Webber!
The Beguiling of Merlin
Not how I picture either Merlin or the Lady of the Lake, but a lovely painting just the same. I like the twisted trees and vines.
The Godhead Fires
Burne-Jones did two near-identical series of paintings that focused on the Pygmalion myth. This is from his second series and features more subtle colors than the first.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Burne-Jones' masterpiece. Easily his most iconic work. I love the way that the two figures seem to be engaged in some sort of flirtatious behavior and yet their faces look so terribly sad.
The Three Graces
Simple and effective representation of the recurring mythological motif of the three goddesses.
The Depths of the Sea
One of my favorite Burne-Jones paintings. I love how beautifully gloomy this one is. Off to the depths they go...
Draper went back and forth in a number of styles and some of his paintings are more in the Classicism movement than Pre-Raphaelite, but those that he did for the Pre-Raphaelites are equally astounding.
The Lament for Icarus
What a wonderful evocation of the tragic myth of the young man who flew too close to the Sun.
By Summer Seas
Quite likely the sexiest work of Sapphic art since the days of the ancient Greeks.
The Water Nymph
I like the slightly spiteful look on her face.
Draper's Lamia is darker and more thoughtful. Cold and calculating rather than warm and sensual.
Self-portrait of Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Rossetti was essentially the founder of the Pre-Raphaelites and is arguably the most prolific artist in the movement. I like some of his paintings, but his continual re-use of the same models (Lizzie Siddal and Jane Burden) grows tiresome. Still, his work is visually stunning.
The Damsel of the Sanct Grail
Kind of Gothic, you know?
Lady Lilith
Not my favorite depiction of Lilith since she comes off as vain and self-obsessed, but a lush, beautiful painting all the same.
Venus Verticordia
Another wonderful Rossetti painting. This one could almost be used as a Valentine's Day card.
Sibylla Palmifera
My favorite Rossetti painting. Vibrant!
Beata Beatrix
Doesn't this just scream "Divine Feminine"?
I love this painting, which was inspired by the Greco-Roman myth. All of it's great except for the woman's face which looks quite inert and inexpressive.
Joseph Noel Paton
Paton's work was done in a style that wasn't purely Pre-Raphaelite, but I like it a lot. It has a very classical feel to it.
The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania
An intriguing take on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Darker than most of the paintings based on the comedic play.
The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania
Another Shakespearean-play inspired piece. This one is even more dark and enigmatic.
I can't say that I know much of anything about Hughes or his work, other than that the two paintings I'm familiar with are two of my favorites.
The Valkyrie's Vigil
I love the delicate lighting and foggy atmosphere in this painting.
A Midsummer's Eve
Purely magical.

What did you think of this list?

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June 01, 2010
I've been looking at unpleasant things all day...this was an excellent diversion! I don't know much about painting, but I was especially intrigued with Rosetti's Proserpine...the spelling an indication of later Roman connections when she had already been established as Pluto's queen, yet she still clutches the pom - sweet detail and also the text that is portrayed in the upper corner of the painting makes me curious. Mermaids, ladies, damsels, nymphs...should be interesting dreams tonight. Thank you, sir.
June 01, 2010
Thanks. Yes, Proserpine is the Roman equivalent of Persephone of Greek myth, as Pluto is the equivalent to Hades. I love the Pre-Raphaelites' use of mythological characters in a slightly modern, feminist light.
June 01, 2010
Beautiful list and I like the way you decided to organize it by artist this time because it makes it possible to compre their styles a little more easily. I like to jumble mine up for some reason.
June 01, 2010
So, what are your thoughts on Rossetti?
June 02, 2010
I think I like Collier and Waterhouse a bit better myself, but he's got Hughes and Patton soundly beaten.
June 02, 2010
Yeah, Waterhouse, Collier, and Burne-Jones are my favorites.
June 02, 2010
There ya go.
June 02, 2010
I've got another list for you to check out if you're interested... more vampire stuff.
June 02, 2010
I'll get there eventually. I've got to go watch the boys in a few minutes and I'm not sure how long I'm going to be gone.
May 21, 2010
3-6, 8-11, 13-16 (what happened to 18 and 33?)19-22 are faves! 31-32 and 34-35 are nice too. Good work!
May 21, 2010
18 and 33 are the topics for the actual artists and I couldn't find any photos or portraits of them as I could for 1, 7, 12, 23, and 30. So, you pretty much like all of them except 2, 17 (which you may want to check out in detail), and 24-29. No love for Rossetti's stuff?
May 22, 2010
I like Rosetti just not all he does...
May 22, 2010
Did you check out 17 more closely. I think you'll dig it. The original title was "The Water Witch", but then it was changed to "The Depths of the Sea" because Burne-Jones felt that the other title sounded to evil.
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