Fascinating insight into the Art of the Pre-Raphaelites

On the evening of 14th January, Professor Christiana Payne from the History of Art Department at Oxford Brookes gave a captivating insight into the art of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. She commented on their method of painting landscapes outside and their use of colour, which was similar to the 19th-century impressionists, however, the detail and precision of the Pre-Raphaelites distinguished them from their French counterparts. I found her explanation of the relationship between the context of the 19th century and the Pre-Raphaelite landscapes fascinating, particularly the impact of scientific studies on John Brett's precision in representing nature. The lecture was a perfect look into the Pre-Raphaelites, giving us a deeper understanding of the history of Landscapes which we study in our A Level nature section.

Professor Payne’s lecture was fascinating, and full of depth. She discussed the significance of artists and individual paintings in relation to the development and establishment of the movement. Artists included John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt and John Brett, and pieces such as Ophelia and Glacier of Rosenlaui. She highlighted the significant role of the art critic and watercolourist John Ruskin, who she believes is often overstated for being the fundamental figure to the artistic group. However, throughout the lecture, the debate on the degree of involvement in the movement by Ruskin was discussed, through Professor Payne’s interpretation of letters and diary entries, as Ruskin is argued by some to have influenced the painters to ‘go to nature’ and paint with realism. The lecture gave insight on a concentrated period of artwork, and the development of detail in landscape, and how this reflected interests in science and religion at a time of great discovery in the mid-19th century.

That Professor Payne should visit St Mary’s to give a lecture was fortuitous: Dr Wickson first encountered her writing when studying the Pre-Raphaelites as her special subject in her final year at university under the tutelage of world expert, Professor Tim Barringer. However, even more appropriately, we discovered that Professor Payne had been a pupil at St Margaret’s Preparatory School!

Janie and Laura (History of Art Prefects)