The Pre-Raphaelite Movement in America 1


Christine 1980 with Paintings



Rosamonds 1942 Lillian, Rosemary, June & Bonnie on Fence 2


melb0006Since 1969 I worked hard to bring my vision of establishing a New Pre-Raphaelite Movement in America. Joaquin Miller had befriended my grandmother when she was young. He would accompany her on the Fruit Vale trolley holding my infant father in his lap. Joaquin would have dinner with the Pre-Raphaelite Artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. His brother, Michael, was the publisher of ‘The Germ’. My grandfather published his poems and stories in his magazine ‘Bright Stories’. Royal Rosamond founded ‘Gem’ publishing. Royal published in Out West magazine as did Joaquin. I suspect his daughters appeared in early magazines as child models. Christine Rosamond included her aunts in her paintings.

Above is a photo of me posing in Christine’s studio. I was going to be her first male portrait. I left my hair grow long after the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

The discovery that a showing of Pre-Raphaelite Artists came to America while they were alive, is the completion of a dream. I see myself as the literary Michael Rossetti these days. When Miller died, the exclusive Bohemian Club conducted a ritual at the Hights that overlooked my kindred’s farm. Miller made a equestrian statue of our kin, John Fremont, his hero. Fremont was the first Republican candidate for President.

We are kin to Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor whose uncle bought artworks in Europe for his rich American clients. The top painting is a portrait of Fair Rosamund by Rossetti who invited Joaquin to his home for dinner. One can say the Pre-Raphaelite Brother and Sisterhood were the Facebook of their day.

Howard Young married Mabel Rosemond and had a gallery in the Pierre Hotel in New York. He was a good friend of the artist, President Dwight Eisenhower. What we are looking at is an American Artistic Dynasty.

Jon Presco

Copyright 2013

Elizabeth grew up with an understanding and appreciation for fine art. Her father, Francis Taylor, was an art dealer with a gallery located at 35 Old Bond Street in London. He learned the business under the tutelage of his uncle, Howard Young. After relocating with his family to sunny California during the war, Francis opened an art gallery at the Château Elysée, but quickly relocated it to the more impressive Beverly Hills Hotel. It was at that location that such celebrities as Howard Duff, Vincent Price, James Mason, Alan Ladd, Hedda Hopper, and Greta Garbo could be found selecting art for their own collections. Francis Taylor was also a trendsetter; responsible for the popularity of Augustus John in the United States. Francis, who had a keen eye, asked John if he could buy some of the paintings John had discarded. John felt they weren’t good enough to sell, and gave them to Francis free of charge. They were sold back at the art gallery in the States, where Augustus John paintings would be sold exclusively for many years. Francis would soon find an art connoisseur in his daughter, Elizabeth, who would amass one of the great private collections of Impressionist art in America.

The funeral on February 19 drew thousands of curious onlookers.[39] The preacher who spoke referred to Miller as “the last of America’s great poets.”[40] On May 23, members of the Bohemian Club of San Francisco and the Press Club returned to Miller’s funeral pyre to burn the urn which contained his ashes, allowing them to scatter.

While in England, he was one of the few Americans invited into the Savage Club along with Julian Hawthorne, son of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The younger Hawthorne referred to Miller as “a licensed libertine” but admitted him “charming, amiable, and harmless”.

The Savage Club was formed to supply the want which Dr Samuel Johnson and his friends experienced when they founded the Literary Club. A little band of authors, journalists and artists felt the need of a place of reunion where, in their hours of leisure, they might gather together and enjoy each other’s society, apart from the publicity of that which was known in Johnson’s time as the coffee house, and equally apart from the chilling splendour of the modern club.

At present, there are 315 members. The club maintains a tradition of fortnightly dinners for members and their guests, always followed by entertainment. These dinners often feature a variety of famous performers from music hall to concert hall. Several times a year members invite ladies to share both the dinner and the entertainment — sometimes as performers. On these occasions guests always include widows of former Savages, who are known as Rosemaries (after rosemary, a symbol of remembrance).

The Pre-Raphaelite Movement in America:
an Introduction

JUST A century ago a group of young British artists and
writers became spontaneously vocal and derogatory.
They produced some paintings and poetry of varying merit
in defiance of the dominant artistic conventions, made a
sharp but temporary impact on their cultural milieu-“f ought
their way into public disfavor/’ as William Michael Rossetti
put itand, after a mature apology for their youthful fervor,
completely disappeared. Thus, in the popular view, the Pre-
Raphaelite Brotherhood.

It may indeed be true that for many individuals the
English P.R.B. art and artifacts now seem outmoded. Pre-
Raphaelite poems are read chiefly in required college
courses; their paintings, typified by the meticulous, photo-
graphic rendition of detail and by the seraphically vacuous
expression on the face of the constant heroine, have suffered
from Ruskin’s misinterpretation of art principles and from
changes in public taste, and so have sunk into some neglect;
and original Morris designs in wallpapers and tapestries
and examples of his fine printing are now only collectors*
items. For Pre-Raphaelite art, itself originally a revolt
against convention, soon became conventionalized “the
high finish,” as Madox Brown admitted, became “too ob-
trusive.” Even W. M. Rossetti himself in 1899 looked upon
the once-solemn code of rules which the young Brotherhood



had drawn up as now “almost comic”; and concerning the
early exuberance of his fellow P.R.B.’s he further commented:

It may be freely allowed that, as they were very young, and fired
with certain ideas impressive to their own spirits, they unduly
ignored some other ideas and theories which have none the less a
deal to say for themselves. They contemned some things and some
practitioners of art not at all contemptible, and, in speech still
more than in thought, they at times wilfully heaped up the scorn.
You cannot have a youthful rebel with a faculty who is also a
model head-boy in a school. 1

Nevertheless, the ultimate significance of the British Pre-
Raphaelite movement* should not be minimized. Insular
and transient though it may have been in some of its aspects,
it actually marked a very definite though limited artistic
revolution. For at its inception the new Pre-Raphaelite view
was “an artist’s protest … a recall to nature, to simplicity
and sincerity” in art 2 a declaration of independence from
the long-continued and dogmatic dictates of the Royal Acad-
emy in painting and from “genteel” taste in literature.

Furthermore, the Pre-Raphaelite movement was not a
solely British phenomenon. Across the Atlantic a ferment
was working among certain young American painters,
authors, and architects who were directly inspired by the
English P.R.B. attack on sterile conservatism. This progres-
sive group in turn denounced what they considered the
slavish adherence to mere tradition. They too became less
polemic, but through the latter half of the nineteenth
century and into our own times they and their followers did

*Two extensions of this term are implicit in this study: first, Ruslcin,
although not a member of the Brotherhood, was so closely associated with
them in the minds of the American Pre-Raphaelites that frequent reference
must be made to him; and, secondly, although the actual P.R.B. organization
existed for little more than five years, investigation of the continuing careers
of its members and of such later associates as William Morris is of course


succeed in exerting an influence on the artistic expression
and even on phases of the economic life of the United
States that cannot be ignored.

Three noteworthy periodicals in this country stemmed
directly from the tenets of Ruskin and the British Brother-
hood. The first journal clearly Pre-Raphaelite in its origin
and sympathies was the Crayon, edited by William James
Stillman, a painting-companion of Ruskin and a close as-
sociate of the whole Rossetti family. This review appeared
in the 1850*5 and conveyed to American readers the heart
of the P.R.B. theories. Another little magazine, the New Path,
was the organ of a superbly self-confident American Brother-
hood known as the “Society for the Advancement of Truth
in Art/’ which centered in New York City in the Civil War
years. Charter members of this group included several young
men of a liberal cast of mind, who were to gain some public
recognition: Clarence King, later the good friend of Henry
Adams, author of Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, and
first Director of the U. S. Geological Survey; Charles Herbert
Moore, subsequently a respected art historian in the Norton
tradition and the first administrator of Harvard’s Fogg
Museum; Clarence Cook, who became editor of the old
Studio-, and two men who made names as architects and
critics, Peter B. Wight, a proponent of the Gothic Revival
in America, and Russell Sturgis, art editor for Scribnefs and
designer of four Gothic buildings for Yale University, A
third American magazine deriving from British sources, in
this case from William Morris and his Arts and Crafts
movement, was the Craftsman, which achieved the impres-
sive circulation of 60,000 before ceasing publication during
the First World War. Its pages gave a comprehensive ac-
count of the American handicrafts revival that flourished
for over two decades and was inspired chiefly by Morris’s


“Red House” and the London Arts and Crafts Exhibition.

In a socio-economic direction not only the Arts and
Crafts movement may be largely credited to P.R.B. origins,
but, in its wider ramifications, the founding in this country
of an experimental Utopian community, the ill-fated “Rus-
kin Commonwealth,” which flowered for a few years in
Tennessee and Georgia.

In the more specific field of the visual arts the spirit of
Rossetti and Morris is definitely recognizable in the paint-
ing and stained-glass work of John La Farge and in the
varied products of Louis Tiffany, “the William Morris of
his generation in America.” Richard Watson Gilder of the
Century, who acknowledged Rossetti as his literary god-
father, likewise was linked directly with the liberal art move-
ment through the activities of his artist wife and their “little
salon” in their New York home, “The Studio/’ Several other
less known painters, such as Thomas Charles Farrer, a stu-
dent of Ruskin, and J. Henry Hill, were of the American
Pre-Raphaelite school. The exceptional collections of manu-
scripts, sketches, and paintings made by the late Samuel
Bancroft, Jr., of Wilmington, Delaware, and by Grenville
L. Winthrop, who bequeathed his extensive holdings to the
Fogg Museum of Art, are further evidence of a continuing
American interest in original Pre-Raphaelite materials.

Literary contacts, too, were frequent. Personal associa-
tions, some fugitive but others of lasting significance, were
established between the British P.R.B/S and their American
sympathizers. Thomas Buchanan Read, for example, was
Dante Gabriel Rossettf s first friend among writers from
this country. Joaquin Miller worked his eccentric way to the
dinner-table of “The Master,” as he labeled Rossetti. W. J.
StiUman, already recognized as the editor of the Crayon,
later displayed talent as an autobiographer and critic, and


added intimate details to the Rossetti canon; and both Still-
man and his beautiful Greek wife, Marie Spartali, were
themselves artists of some ability and served as models for
Dante Gabriel. Hawthorne, Emerson, Whitman, Longfellow,
Moncure Conway, and others knew the Pre-Raphaelites in-
dividually, and were concerned with their ideas. Some later
American writers also owe something to the concepts of
Ruskin and the young Brotherhood. The verse of Christina
Rossetti, on the periphery of the group, was among the
models for Sara Teasdale’s poetry. D. G. Rossetti and Morris
had a considerable effect on such diverse figures as Richard
Hovey, Josephine Preston Peabody, and Ezra Pound; while
Vachel Lindsay in his “Gospel of Beauty” expounded much
of the Ruskinian aspiration for the better life.

These Britishers and Americans were, in the main, expo-
nents of the second of the two chief aesthetic attitudes of
the latter half of the nineteenth century. Put simply, one
view held that the effective creation of artistic beauty, in
whatever form, was an adequate and justifiable end in itself
art for the sake of art was enough. But to many sensitive
persons this interpretation seemed too precious, too other-
worldly, too esoteric. Beauty is not a supreme and absolute
value. Art cannot be abstracted from the conditions of art,
but must take its inspiration from its time and place, and
must, in full circle, bear a constructive relationship to its

Although pioneering chronologically, Poe’s dreamworld,
“out of space, out of time/’ demonstrated little visible con-
nection with the American environment; and through its
sensuous vividness and easy intelligibility, it led a reader
smoothly into the convolutions of Walter Pater and Oscar
Wilde. The purity and aloofness of art might be even better


illustrated by the French, with whom the “art for art’s sake”
movement largely began: Flaubert, Gautier, Baudelaire, and
the brothers de Goncourt.

But other writers and artists, sometimes labeled as mere
sociological thinkers, looked about them at the masses of
humanity struggling for a better life or even for mere exist-
ence, and believed that an artist had a moral as well as an
aesthetic duty. To lead the masses the artist must serve the
masses. The majority of mankind laboring under inescapable
pressures must still be awakened to the power of beauty.
And the materialistic proprietors of the new machine-made
wealth must likewise be made to see the artistic and hu-
manitarian light. Victor Hugo and Zola in France; Carlyle,
Ruskin, and Morris in England; Whitman, Emerson, and
many of the later, lesser writers in America saw what they
considered the logical and inevitable link between art and
literature and common, everyday life.

The core of the Pre-Raphaelite attitude, however, was a
more inclusive desire than merely to apply art to society to
bring about visible improvements. The touchstone, if one
well-worn phrase must be selected, was “truth to nature/*
to Nature capitalized. Empty and trite interpretations, de-
liberate manipulations of subject matter to gain meretricious
effects in a word, artistic insincerity, illogicality and dis-
honesty in all their guises and applications these were the
foes of the Pre-Raphaelites on both sides of the Atlantic. And
against them they rode manfully and loudly to battle.

This attitude of the Americans, which is our chief concern
here, is of particular significance when viewed against the
backdrop of its historical period. The low estimate of human
nature and its potential which was inherent in the theologi-
cal determinism of the Puritans had yielded to the optimistic
faith in man and his perfectibility through reason which the


Enlightenment had offered. This “rational” attitude had
found magnificent political expression in “life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness,” and had found brief philosophical
application in Deism, and thereafter in the more organized
concepts of Unitarianism. In the Transcendental mode man
achieved an even nobler level, sharing a spark of the Divine
fire, himself but little lower than the angels. And on a practi-
cal level the rich new continent seemed to stretch out end-
lessly, with equal opportunity and success and satisfaction
for all comers.

But some acid facts of American life, both national and
individual, began by the middle of the century to corrode
the foundations of this high faith and hope. The cynicism
evidenced in the acquisition of the great Southwest from
Mexico; the self-interested regional economic struggles (as
well as the genuine humanitarian concerns) of the Civil
War; the corruption and self-seeking of Grant’s administra-
tion and the era of the carpetbaggers; the incredible “robber
barons” and their shameless pride in exploiting the nation’s
wealth; the thin tinsel and superficiality and “conspicuous
waste” of the Gilded Age; the shock of Darwinism, biological
determinism, pragmatism, and literary naturalism; the dis-
concerting ideas of Karl Marx and his exponents; the mush-
room growth of grimy industrial centers and workers* slums;
the acquisitive overseas activities and imperialism in the
Philippines, the Caribbean, and Panama these and other
crises and problems seemed to leave little energy or oppor-
tunity for a serious consideration of art and the role of
aesthetics in nineteenth century America.

So, whatever the ultimate residue from their efforts, these
American figures about to be discussed were at least a lively,
corporate antidote to the materialism and artistic stagnation
of “American Victorianism.” As Russell Sturgis, one of the


most outspoken of the New York group in the i86o’s, later
viewed the Pre-Raphaelite movement in both England and
the United States:

We may gravely doubt whether it occupies an exceptionally high
rank among the fine arts of the nineteenth century, and yet it is
necessary to admit its intensity, its narrow and simply acting force,
its vigorous attempt to make painting into a vehicle for religious,
literary and patriotic sentiment, and its profound interest to the
student of intellectual experiments. 3


The British Brotherhood

IN 1848, a year in which autocratic political power was
challenged on the Continent, a casual artistic fraternity
was formed in England that in its own more limited scope
was to become a liberating force in the arts, not only in that
country but in the United States as well. Because the Ameri-
cans reflected the influence of their British confreres so
directly-with almost no appreciable “cultural lag”–it seems
pertinent before investigating the Pre-Raphaelite activities
in the United States to recall a few salient facts concerning
the English group.

The original Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was not, of
course, a closely knit organization of artists consistently de-
fending the sair^ novel and iconoclastic ideas in art. Ruskin
was not its founder, nor was Dante Gabriel Rossetti its
prime mover; and the term Pre-Raphaelitism had no fixed
definition but from 1848 onward went through a widely
varying cycle of meaning. For no sooner had the component
elements of the fraternity united on a few specific matters
of principle and method than each began to follow his own
distinct and often quite disparate path, A brief analysis will
make this clear.

When the Brotherhood first evolved, John Everett Millais,
a cherubic child prodigy who had won Academy prizes at
ten, was nineteen years old; Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “the



gifted, erratic . . . volatile young poet and painter whose last
name was Italian and whose first two seemed to place him
under the high patronage of the greatest of poets and an
archangel/’ x was twenty; William Holman Hunt, already a
deeply religious figure, was twenty-one; and Thomas Wool-
ner, an aspiring but untalented sculptor, was two years older.
These young men were soon drawn together at the Royal
Academy school by a shared discontent with the formulas
of contemporary popular painting.

It was in the beginning of the year 1848 [said Holman Hunt
years later to Millais’s son and biographer] that your father and I
determined to adopt a style of absolute independence as to art-
dogma and convention: this we called “Pre-Raphaelitism.” D. G.
Rossetti was already my pupil [after having worked discontented-
ly with Ford Madox Brown] and it seemed certain that he also, in
time, would work on the same principles. He had declared his
intentions of doing so, and there was beginning to be some talk of
other artists joining us. . . . 2

Rossetti had acquired Madox Brown’s habit of applying
the term “Early Christian” to the experiments of Millais
and Hunt, but the latter convinced him that “Pre-Raphaelite”
was a more apt label. Rossetti thereupon, “with a pet scheme
of an extended co-operation in mind, amended my previous
suggestion by adding to our title . . . the word ‘Brother-
hood/ ” 3

All four young men were interested in literature as well
as in art. Rossetti had already written excellent poetry;
Woolner, the stone-carver, was about to compose “My
Beautiful Lady”; Millais was writing amateur verse; and
Hunt was reading Keats with gusto. And as to painting,
William Michael Rossetti noted in his concurrent journal:

They entertained a hearty contempt for much of the Art flimsy,
frivolous, and conventional which they saw in practice around


them; and they wanted to shew forth what was in them in the way
of solid and fresh thought or invention, personal observation, and
the intimate study of, and strict adherence to Nature. 4

The quartet soon expanded. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, hav-
ing admired a painting by a mediocre young artist named
James Collinson, invited him into the fellowship. Hunt
suggested the inclusion of Frederick George Stephens, who
was to become a better critic than painter. And William
Michael Rossetti, whose talent was literary rather than pic-
torial, became the unofficial but prolific recorder and his-
torian of the Brotherhood.

The bond of union among them was unassuming and
direct in William Michael’s own phraseology:

i, To have genuine ideas to express; 2, to study Nature atten-
tively, so as to know how to express them; 3, to sympathize with
what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the
exclusion of what is conventional and self-parading and learned
by rote; and, 4, and most indispensable of all, to produce thor-
oughly good pictures and statues. 5

These seven young men, with Hunt and Millais as the
dominant figures, formed the nucleus of the early group.
Many others from time to time appeared in the Pre-Raphael-
ite circle. Arthur Hughes, Frederic Sandys, Charles Collins,
and Walter Deverell sympathized with P.R.B. aims and
worked on comparable lines. William Bell Scott, John Brett,
W. S. Burton, Thomas Seddon, Henry Wallis, and others
had tenuous connections. Coventry Patmore, poet and later
Librarian of the British Museum, was in frequent contact,
but was ineligible for membership because he was not a
working artist. The Irish poet, William Allingham, was
likewise an associate. And Madox Brown, as Rossettfs first
teacher and himself a proponent of minute finish in paint-
ing, had a continuing influence on the Brotherhood.


The omission of Ruskin’s name in these early years is
significant., for the misconception is still prevalent that Rus-
kin “discovered” the P.R.B. and was their first champion.
This of course was not the case. The American journalist
and Pre-Raphaelite painter, William J. Stillman, who was
well acquainted with both Ruskin and the British Pre-
Raphaelites remarked: “I have heard Rossetti say none of
the Brotherhood had ever read ten pages of his writing be-
fore Ruskin had constituted himself their advocate.” 6 And
Holman Hunt apparently was the only Brother who ever
troubled to read even the first volume of Modern Painters.
Ruskin’s first knowledge of the Brotherhood came through
Coventry Patmore, an old friend of Rossetti, who urged
him to write in defense of the P.R.B. Ruskin’s first letter
on that subject to the Times was not written until 1851
three years after the inception of the movement in which
he declared he had “no acquaintance with these artists and
very imperfect sympathy with them/’ His friendship with
Rossetti did not begin until 1854 when the P.R.B. had in
effect already dissolved, and that artist had already painted
and sold his “Girlhood of Mary Virgin” and the “Annuncia-
tion/ 7 From that year until 1866, however, Ruskin was a
generous patron and strong defender and ally. Throughout
his writings he perhaps gratuitously attributed to the
Brotherhood some of his own concepts, and read into their
works some of his own principles. Nevertheless, his Modern
Painters had strong influence on Hunt in particular; and
Ruskin’s exegesis of the original Pre-Raphaelite platform
is largely reliable. 7 In America his name has been linked
almost indissolubly with those of the P.R.B.

The more or less formal Brotherhood had disintegrated
before 1854 out of sheer divergence of its members* tastes
and interests; only “a solemn mockery” of the original fra-


ternity, as Holman Hunt wistfully recalled, it “died of
itself/’ 8 So many hangers-on and pseudo-Pre-Raphaelites
had grafted themselves onto the basic organization that
Lady Trevelyan wrote in 1860 to William Bell Scott:

I am glad the Academy have ill-used the Preraffs, it will perhaps
lop off some rotten branches in the shape of weak brethren, who
paint boneless imitations of the school and bring discredit on it. If
these are convinced it is unpopular and does not pay they will give
up, which will be an unmixed good. . . .*

During the following years the term Pre-Raphaelite con-
tinued in popular and unpopular usage, but inevitably took
on various shades of meaning. Holman Hunt alone continued
to uphold and apply the early Pre-Raphaelite principles
(making an extended tour of the Near East in 1854 to
supply authentic backgrounds for his religious pictures), as
his highly literal canvases (“The Scape-Goat/* for example)
indicate; and at the end of a long career holding the same
art principles as he did at the age of twenty he could
view the rising school of Impressionism only as “the threat
to modern art, menacing nothing less than its extinction.” 10
Millais, who in the early years, according to his son, “sought
to paint exactly what he himself saw in Nature, omitting
no detail,” declared his own “emancipation from the exces-
sive detail of Pre-Raphaelite expression” by a major canvas
produced in 1858, the “Vale of Rest.” Here, and in such
later works of the i86o’s as “Rosalind and Celia” and
“Jephtha,” he could still give careful attention to the minutiae,
but allegedly “showed a further development … in the
style and character of his work, marked . . . now by a greater
breadth of treatment.” n The American Pre-Raphaelite Rus-
sell Sturgis regarded this evolution in style somewhat less
charitably. “Millais,” he declared at the turn of the century,
“followed sincerely the principles of the school for ten years,


then dropped them absolutely and followed as sincerely a
path of more popular, more easy, more fruitful, more speedy
execution which led to his immense social and pecuniary
success.” 12 Millais’s continuance in a kind of artistic ortho-
doxy was indicated, however, by his unanimous election
in 1896 to the presidency of the Royal Academy. “Beginning
as a prSraphaMite enrage” says a contemporary critic, “he
promises to end a true successor to Gainsborough and
Reynolds.” 13

The widest divergence from the original P.R.B. platform
is to be seen in the work of D. G. Rossetti himself. As Sturgis
asserted, “Rossetti never obeyed, even for a day, the Pre-
Raphaelite principles, but painted … his brilliant dreams
as unconcernedly as if he had never vowed allegiance to
serve fixed principles of graphic art.” 14 Millais emphatically
denied that “the mysterious and un-English Rossetti” had
ever influenced his own work: “My pictures would have been
the same if I had never seen or heard of Rossetti.” 15 And
after labeling him “a queer fellow, and impossible as a boon
companion so dogmatic and irritable when opposed” Mil-
lais continued:

His aims and ideals in art were also widely different from ours,
and it was not long before he drifted away from us to follow his
own peculiar fancies. What they were may be seen from his sub-
sequent works. They were highly imaginative and original, and
not without elements of beauty, but they were not Nature.

Then, with some feeling, Millais asserted:

At last, when he presented for our admiration the young women
which have since become the type of Rossettianism, the public
opened their eyes in amazement. “And this,” they said, “is Pre-
Raphaelitism!” It was nothing of the sort. The Pre-Raphaelites had
but one idea to present on canvas what they saw in Nature; and
such productions as these were absolutely foreign to the spirit of
their work. 16


The subject of all this discussion himself made a pertinent
comment, indicative of his attitude in the iSyo’s. To a lady
inquiring whether he were “the Pre-Raphaelite Rossetti,”
the artist sharply replied, “Madam, I am not an *ite’ of any
kind; I am only a painter/’ His brother, William Michael,
accepted the veracity of this statement, but added: “It is not
the less true that in 1848 and for some years afterward he
meant a good deal by calling himself Pre-Raphaelite, and
meant it very heartily.” 17

Be that as it may, friendly relations between Rossetti
and Millais lasted only until 1852; they saw each other oc-
casionally during the next few years; after 1856 they did
not meet. Hence, with the loosening of his bonds with the
Brotherhood, Rossettiessentially a highly social creature
was heartened both personally and in his artistic principles
by the advent in the i86o’s of two young men from Oxford,
Edward Burne- Jones and William Morris, both of whom had
decided to renounce a clerical for an artistic career. To these
three, Rossetti, Burne- Jones, and Morris, the new life of the
movement was due which, as the later Pre-Raphaelitism
(sometimes labeled “Rossettianism” in Millais’s phrase),
obviously abandoned the original tenets of simplicity, ear-
nestness, and fidelity to nature, and took on an other-worldly,
half-ascetic, half-voluptuous tone in the “quaint sexless
beauty” of Burne- Jones’s work, and a new freedom of subject,
interpretation, and treatment in the widely ranging imagina-
tion of Rossetti.

Because, in 1848, most of the young Englishmen of the
Brotherhood were destined to be of considerable influence
in America, it is well to inquire why, as artists, they chose
their particular name-label as a means of denouncing the
popular standards of early Victorian art. Raffaello Sanzio,


who died in 1520, was rejected not because he failed as a
technician or as an interpreter o life, but rather because he
had become, as an erudite British critic phrased it for the
Royal Society, the “soo-year-old godfather of a dead school
of painting so dead that it had begun to stink. Raphael,
that great creator of form, had been reduced to a recipe. . . .
‘Style’ and ‘the grand manner’ were things fixed in medi-
ocrity, and a mannerism too grandmotherly for words. And,
therefore, Pre-Raphaelitism.” 1S The fresh vision of the Renais-
sance had indeed degenerated into a formula, which Ruskin
sardonically summarized:

We begin, in all probability, by telling the youth of fifteen or six-
teen, that Nature is full of faults, and that he is to improve her;
but that Raphael is perfection, and that the more he copies
Raphael the better; that after much copying of Raphael, he is to
try what he can do himself in a Raphaelesque, but yet original,
manner: that is to say . . . this clever something is to be properly
subjected to Raphaelesque rules.

It may be a shock to find how carefully prescribed the
treatment was to be. This clever something must “have a
principal light occupying one-seventh of its space, and a
principal shadow occupying one-third of the same.” No two
people’s heads might be turned at the same angle; and “all
the personages represented are to possess ideal beauty of the
highest order, which ideal beauty consists partly in a Greek
outline of nose, partly in proportions expressible in decimal
fractions between the lips and chin.” And this, says Ruskin,
“is the kind of teaching we give our young men. And we
wonder we have no painters!” 19

The contemporary British exhibitions thus were filled with
the anecdotal works of such insipid figures as Stanfield,
Cooke, Creswick, Mulready, Gaudy, Cooper, and President
Easdake of the Royal Academy, which Ruskin categorized


as an endless and weary succession of “cattle pieces, sea
pieces, fruit pieces, family pieces/’ 20 With the exception of
the romantic Turner no artist had arisen to replace the popu-
lar but stylized eighteenth-century masters, Gainsborough,
Romney, and Reynolds. In 1821 even Constable cried: “In
thirty years English art will cease to exist” 21 and without the
impetus supplied by the Pre-Raphaelites his prophecy might
well have been realized.

To the eyes of the young Brotherhood the contemporary
art scene was completely bound by custom. Thus they felt
impelled to break out of the confining integuments of the
“old masters,” to assert the validity of their own new, direct
apprehension. They chose their label, then, because in the
art of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries they thought
they had discovered “a sincerity of purpose, together with
a sensitiveness to natural form and colour and to decorative
effectiveness, which was quite beyond the powers of any of
their contemporaries,” 22 who were hampered by the fixed
anatomical and perspective standards and the technical
methods then current in the academies. Thus the young Pre-
Raphaelites deliberately became neo-medieval and anti-

Obviously there had been brilliant artists before Raphael.
The historical pre-Raphaelite epoch might be said to begin
with Cimabue (born 1240) and extend through Perugino
(born 1446), the teacher of Raphael; the intervening period
embraced such important figures as Giotto, Fra Angelico,
Masaccio, Mantegna, and Botticelli; and in the Flemish
School, Memling and Jan van Eyck But the nineteenth-
century Pre-Raphaelites’ acquaintance with them was com-
paratively slight. 23 They were symbols of freedom, not literal
patterns to copy, and the later British figures did not trouble
to be specific about their artistic forebears. What they saw


in the old Italians was the twofold ability to choose elevated
and original subjects, and then to embody them in forms
demonstrating the utmost fidelity to nature a nobility of
conception and an exactness in transcription which had for
them a high appeal. As the American Pre-Raphaelite journal,
the Craftsman, put it:

They turned for aid and inspiration to medievalism, as to the right-
ful and common inheritance of modern nations. They rejected the
facility fatal to ideas, the artistic subterfuges and conventions of
the followers of “the grand style”; seeking their guides and models
in artists who lived in a time when human thought teemed,
although it struggled with an imperfect medium of expression.
. . . Thus in the old Italians and old Flemings they found their
masters, whom they did not servilely imitate, but to whom they
were attracted as to the founders of a national and popular art/ 24

Since the usual stress is on the Florentine group it is in-
teresting to note that Dante Gabriel Rossetti himself ac-
cented his admiration for the Flemish School, following his
visit to Bruges:

By far the best of all are the miraculous works of Memling and Van
Eyck. … I assure you that the perfection of character, and even
drawing, the astounding finish, the glory of colour, and above all
the pure religious sentiment and ecstatic poetry of these works, is
not to be conceived or described. 25

In spite of their early efforts at literal rendition of the
model and the employment of vivid, living color, the work
of the British Pre-Raphaelites was not, in any sense, pure
“realism,” for basically it was their own highly individual
expression which was a subjective, a “romantic” thing. W. M.
Rossetti phrased it: “The English revivalists recur to one
primary school nature, as interpreted by their own eyes and
feelings.” 26 And his brother Dante Gabriel at one time re-
marked, in reply to the argument that a realistic picture


“was both vulgar and dishonouring to Art” “I fear we shall
not agree on that point; we should all be both realists and
idealists.” 2r Pre-Raphaelitism was, indeed, an “endeavour to
express romance in terms of nature, with great intensity of
individual feeling, and with a strong sense of character/* 2S
Hence it was completely logical for the P.R.B/s to seek
their subjects, both pictorial and literary, in the convention-
ally romantic characters of the Middle Ages. But in the
hands of Morris in particular these figures were meta-
morphosed into living individuals true to the tenor of their
own part chivalrous, part barbaric times, and not, as in the
works of Tennyson, transformed into figurines who were
actually refined and conscientious members of British Vic-
torian society. 29

The British Brotherhood assumed in several fields an
originality not completely theirs. It is a defensible con-
jecture that their neo-medieval tendencies, if not shaped by
the Oxford religious movement, at least had an intimate
alliance with the aims and methods of that group. Without
the effect on the public mind of Newman, Keble, Pusey, and
the Lyra Apostolica and the whole trend toward the re-
covery of Gothic design and medieval sentiment, it is quite
possible that the Pre-Raphaelites would have cast their seed
on stony ground.

So too in literature. Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Keats,
and before them Crabbe and Cowper, Blake and Burns, had
each in his own way attempted to avoid the old formulas
of rhetorical gesture, and to present a new type of intense,
sincere, human literature. A sharp focus on small objects,
attention centered on the significance of the phenomena of
nature, originality in the employment of stark figures and
vivid similes, a specific inventiveness in the visual symbol


all these suggest the essence of Pre-Raphaelite poetry long
before it was analyzed and so labeled by the P.R.B/s.

In the techniques of painting the Dutch genre artists and
their Flemish fellows had long since thoroughly explored
the possibilities of representational art. In England, Hogarth
in literalness, Blake in grandeur of subject matter and re-
volt from materialism, and Turner in color and subjective
interpretation were certainly to be recognized as exemplars
of their craft. And in France, Degas, Monet, Renoir, and
Cezanne were already painting their early brilliant canvases
in their own effort to escape from stultifying conventional-
ism, an effort destined to catch the popular favor to a much
greater extent than did the works of their contemporary
experimentalists in England. For although their directions
and methods were radically different, the rising French
Impressionists and the British Pre-Raphaelites were both
searching for some new and better art forms and ex-
pressions than those they found ready-made and transmitted
to them by the academies and accepted masters of their
day. It is, indeed, an irony in the history of art that the Pre-
Raphaelites, who began their crusade with courage, original-
ity and intelligence, failed with the notable exception of
Dante Gabriel Rossetti to produce any ultimately great
art, whereas the romantic individualists of the new French
school succeeded in producing works now almost universally
revered and enjoyed.

Why this should be so is a subject rich for speculation.
Two factors might suggest a partial answer. The Pre-
Raphaelites by deliberately cutting themselves off from tra-
ditional studio practices perhaps also cut themselves off
from the necessary training in manual techniques. They were
literally amateurs, and (with the exception of Millais) had
to paint and scrape out and repaint to get their effects,


largely by trial and error, while the Frenchmen were masters
of their materials and were fluent in the media of art. A
second suggestion is implicit in a remark by D. G. Rossetti
already quoted. On both sides of the Channel the painters
rejected the contemporary academic standards in art, and
went back to earlier, more spontaneous expression. But as
Rossetti said, English artists saw “above all the pure re-
ligious sentiment and ecstatic poetry of these works” that is,
they were attracted primarily by the literary and emotional
content. The French Impressionists, by contrast, were not
concerned so much with subject as with treatment. Largely
ignoring content as such, they were free to experiment in
non-academic methods and techniques suggested by the
older painters, and devoted themselves to working out new
concepts of plastic form which did succeed in establishing
the direction that modern art was to take.

The question inevitably arises, also, why Ruskin and
Morris with all their courage and brilliance, their pene-
trating analysis of the society of their time, and their practical
moves toward its betterment should seem vulnerable in the
eyes of modern art criticism. Perhaps the basic flaw in their
critical armor was their simple refusal to recognize the in-
evitability of the machine. Faced with the drudgery and
degradation of nineteenth-century industrialism, they could
think of escape in one direction only backward into the
medieval age of individual self-sufficiency and spontaneous
joy in the manual crafts, and of inspired, communal archi-
tectural expression in the Gothic cathedrals. A modem social
thinker, Lewis Mumford, has pointed out that our capacity
to go beyond the machine rests upon our power to assimilate
the machine. This fundamental fact Morris and Ruskin failed
to appreciate; and there is inevitably some falseness in the
objectives which they set up. Nevertheless, although Morris


never became reconciled to the industrial age, he did realize,
near the end of his career, that irksome labor could be elimi-
nated by planned employment of mechanical aids. In the
visual arts he failed, perhaps, to concern himself with the
central problems of form and structure, and dealt rather
with applied ornament and decoration. But he was talented
in handling flat surfaces; and his two-dimensional designs
in fabrics, wallpapers, and especially in typography and fine
printing have continuing effectiveness and charm. And his
crafts idea has certainly affected modern industrial design,
which attempts to produce logically and beautifully de-
signed objects but by mechanical rather than manual proc-
esses. Ruskin, likewise, may have failed to penetrate to the
core of some problems of art, W. J. Stillman pointed out this
weakness as concisely as any other critic. Ruskin did not
comprehend that “art does not lie in representing nature,
but in the manner of representing her. … No art can be
gauged by its fidelity to nature … its adherence to phys-
ical facts. … In my opinion Ruskin cares nothing for the
plastic qualities of art, or for the human figure, otherwise
than as it embodies human and moral dignity.” 30 But within
the limitations of his mind, Ruskin was unquestionably one of
the liberating forces of the nineteenth century and a major
social prophet and critic. 31

In broad outline, then, it is valid to consider the Pre-
Raphaelite movement, in its various manifestations, as a
belated evidence of the nineteenth century’s “romantic”
reaction against the rational, “classical” temper of the eight-
eenth. In poetry the revolution in subject, form, and treat-
ment seemed already mature in the Lyrical Battads; the
religious reaction at Oxford was initiated in 1830; but the ar-


tistic recoil is scarcely visible before 1850, except in the
isolated figures of Blake and Turner.

In plotting the course of the Pre-Raphaelite movement in
America we must, therefore, draw, as clear a line as is feasible
between the general impulse of romantic individualism, on
the one hand, which flooded west from British and Conti-
nental sources, and on the other, the effect on American
artists, writers, and life in general which is directly attribut-
able to the members of the British Pre-Raphaelite Brother-
hood and their literary x and artistic expressions.

The story of the Pre-Raphaelites in England has been well
and frequently told. 32 But their cis-Atlantic impact has not
previously been dealt with. American poets, painters, and
architects and even the proponents of the Arts and Crafts
movement and various economic schemes reacted strongly
and specifically to the new perspectives and the fresh asser-
tiveness of the British group.

Dinner at Rossetti’s
by Joaquin Miller
There is no thing that hath not worth;
There is no evil anywhere;
There is no ill on all this earth,
If man seeks not to see it there.
September 28. I cannot forget that dinner with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, just before leaving London, nor can I hope to recall its shining and enduring glory. I am a better, larger man, because of it. And how nearly our feet are set on the same way. It was as if we were all crossing the plains, and I for a day’s journey and a night’s encampment fell in with and conversed with the captains of the march.
But one may not gave names and dates and details over there as here. The home is entirely a castle. The secrets of the board and fireside are sacred. And then these honest toilers and worshippers of the beautiful are shy, so shy and modest. But I like this decent English way of keeping your name down and out of sight till the coffin-lid hides your blushes–so modest these Pre-Raphaelites are that I should be in disgrace forever if I dared set down any living man’s name.
But here are a few of the pearls picked up, as they were tossed about the table at intervals and sandwiched in between tales of love and lighter thoughts and things.
All London, or rather all the brain of London, the literary brain, was there. And the brain of all the world, I think, was in London. These giants of thought, champions of the beautiful earth, passed the secrets of all time and all lands before me like a mighty panorama. All night sol We dined so late that we missed breakfast. If I could remember and write down truly and exactly what these men said, I would have the best and the greatest book that ever was written, I have been trying a week in vain, I have written down and scratched out and revised till I have lost the soul of it, it seems to me; no individuality to it; only like my own stuff. If I only had set their words down on the next day instead of attempting to remember their thoughts! Alas! the sheaves have been tossed and beaten about over sea and land for days and days, till the golden grain is gone, and here is but the straw and chaff.
The master sat silent for the most part; there was a little man away down at the other end, conspicuously modest. There was a cynical fat man, and a lean philanthropist all sorts and sizes, but all lovers of the beautiful of earth. Here is what one, a painter, a ruddy-faced and a rollicking gentleman, remarked merrily to me as he poured out a glass of red wine at the beginning of the dinner:
“When travelling in the mountains of Italy, I observed that the pretty peasant women made the wine by putting grapes m a great tub, and then, getting into this tub, barefooted, on top of the grapes, treading them out with their brown, bare feet. At first I did not like to drink this wine. I did not think it was clean. But I afterward watched these pretty brown women” and here all leaned to listen, at the mention of pretty brown women– I watched these pretty brown women at their work in the primitive winepress, and I noticed that they always washed their feet after they got done treading out the wine.”
All laughed at this, and the red-faced painter was so delighted that he poured out and swallowed another full glass. The master sighed as he sat at the head of the table rolling a bit of bread between thumb and finger, and said, sitting close to me: “I am an Italian who has neven seen Italy. Belle Italia!…”
By and by he quietly said that silence was the noblest attitude in all things; that the greatest poets refused to write, and that all great artists in all lines were above the folly of expression. A voice from far down the table echoed this sentiment by saying:”Heard melodies are sweet; but unheard melodies are sweeter.” “Written poems are delicious; but unwritten poems are divine,” cried the triumphant cynic. “What is poetry?” cries a neighbor. “All true, pure life is poetry,” answers one. “But the inspiration of poetry?” “The art of poetry is in books. The inspiration of poetry in nature.” To this all agreed.
Then the master very quietly spoke: “And yet do not despise the books of man. All religions, said the Chinese philosophers, are good. The only difference is, some religions are better than others, and the apparent merit of each depends largely upon a mans capacity for understanding it. This is true of .poetry. All poetry is good. I never read a poem in my life that did not have some merit, and teach some sweet lesson. The fault in reading the poems of man, as well as reading the poetry of nature, lies largely at the door of the reader. Now, what do you call poetry?” and he turned his great Italian eyes tenderly to where I sat at his side.
To me a poem must be a picture,” I answered.
Proud I was when a great poet then said: “And it must be a picture–if a good poem so simple that you can understand it at a glance, eh? And see it and remember it as you would see and remember a sunset, eh?” “Aye,” answered the master, “I also demand that it shall be lofty in sentiment and sublime in expression. The only rule I have for measuring the merits of a written poem, is by the height of it. Why not be able to measure its altitude as you measure one of your sublime peaks of America?”
He looked at me as he spoke of America, and I was encouraged to answer:”Yes, I do not want to remember the words. But I do want it to remain with me a picture and become a part of my life. Take this one verse from Mr. Longfellow:
“And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.’”
“Good!” cried the fat cynic, who, I am sure, had never heard the couplet before, it was so sweet to him; “Good! There is a picture that will depart from no impressible clay. The silent night, the far sweet melody falling on the weary mind, the tawny picturesque Arabs stealing away m the darkness, the perfect peace, the stillness and the rest. It appeals to all the Ishmaelite in our natures, and all the time we see the tents gathered up and the silent children of the desert gliding away in the gloaming.”
A transplanted American, away down at the other end by a little man among bottles, said: “The poem of Evangeline is a succession of pictures. I never read Evangeline but once.” “It is a waste of time to look twice at a sunset,” said Rossetti, sotto voce, and the end man went on: “But i believe I can see every picture in that poem as distinctly as if I had been the unhappy Arcadian; for here the author has called in ail the elements that go to make up a perfect poem.”
“When the great epic of this new, solid Saxon tongue comes to be written,” said one who sat near and was dear to the master’s heart, “it will embrace all that this embraces: new and unnamed lands; ships on the sea; the still deep waters hidden away in a deep and voiceless continent; the fresh and fragrant wilderness; the curling smoke of the camp-fire; action, movement, journeys; the presence–the inspiring presence of woman; the ennobl- ing sentiment of love, devotion, and devotion to the death; faith, hope and charity,- and all in the open air.”
“Yes,” said the master thoughtfully, ‘no great poem has ever been or ever will be fitted in a parlor, or even fashioned from a city. There is not room for it there.”
“Hear! hear! you might as well try to grow a California pine in the shell of a peanut,” cried I. Some laughed, some applauded, all looked curiously at me. Of course, I did not say it that well, yet I did say it far better, I mean I did not use the words carefully, but I had the advantage of action and sympathy.
Then the master said, after a bit of reflection: “Homer’s Ulysses, out of which have grown books enough to cover the earth, owes its immortality to all this, and its out-door exercise. Yet it is a bloody book a bad book, in many respects–full of revenge, treachery, avarice and wrong. And old Ulysses himself seems to have been the most colossal liar on record. But for all this, the constant change of scene, the moving ships and the roar of waters, the rush of battle and the anger of the gods, the divine valor of the hero, and, above all, and over all, like a broad, white-bosomed moon through the broken clouds, the splendid life of that one woman; the shining faith, the constancy, the truth and purity of Penelope–all these make a series of pictures that pass before us like a panorama, and we will not leave off reading till we have seen them all happy together again, and been assured that the faith and constancy of that woman has had it reward. And we love him, even if he does lie!”
How all at that board leaned and listened. Yet let me again and again humbly confess to you that I do him such injustice to try thus to quote from memory. After a while he said: “Take the picture of the old, blind, slobber-mouthed dog, that has been driven forth by the wooers to die. For twenty years he has not heard the voice of his master. The master now comes, in the guise of a beggar. The dog knows his voice, struggles to rise from the ground, staggers toward him, licks his hand, falls, and dies at his feet.”
Such was the soul, heart, gentleness of this greatest man that I ever saw walking in the fields of art….
Miller earned an estimated $3,000 working as a Pony Express rider, and used the money to move to Oregon. With the help of his friend, Senator Joseph Lane, he became editor of the Democratic Register in Eugene,[7] a role he held from March 15 to September 20, 1862.[8] Though no copies survive, it was known as sympathetic to the Confederacy until it was forced to shut down.[9] That year, Miller married Theresa Dyer (alias Minnie Myrtle) on September 12, 1862, in her home four days after meeting her[10] in Port Orford, Oregon.

Swinburne Meets Joaquin Miller.” New York Times (10 May 1931) [Online: BR5]
Picture with the text: “Once Joaquin Miller and a British Writer Called on Swinburne, Whom the Englishman Claimed as an Intimate Friend. They Announced Themselves as Joaquin Miller, the American Poet, and a Friend. Swinburne Sent Down Word to ‘Bring the American Poet Up and Tell the Friend to Go to Hell.’” [MCK]

Algernon Charles Swinburne (London, April 5, 1837 – London, April 10, 1909) was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He invented the roundel form, wrote several novels, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in every year from 1903 to 1907 and again in 1909.[1]
At Oxford Swinburne met several Pre-Raphaelites, including William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. After leaving college he lived in London and started an active writing career, where Rossetti was delighted with his ‘little Northumbrian friend’, a reference to Swinburne’s diminutive height—he was just over five feet tall.[citation needed]
The first of Rosamond’s five scenes is the most forceful in demonstrating Swinburne’s debt to troubadour conventions as well as to Pre-Raphaelite stylistic influences. Courtly love preoccupations and the medieval setting overshadow elements of Jacobean revenge tragedy throughout the play. Swinburne’s Rosamond, rather than the historical queen of the Courts of Love, espouses the religion of love and, as a result of her lived creed, is poisoned by Eleanor out of jealousy.

Swinburne’s choice of the “rose of the world” as one of his first subjects for verse suggests that he associated his conception of Rosamond with courtly love allegory, specifically the Roman de la Rose, in which the rose is the eternal symbol of the beloved and of the perfect beauty that is fearfully transient but simultaneously immortal.3 As in Swinburne’s later lyrics “Before the Mirror” and “The Year of the Rose,”

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Pre-Raphaelite Movement in America 1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.