Beautiful Rebellion Man of Sorrows, about 1860, by William Dyce, part of the Walker exhibition on the pre-Raphaelites. Photograph: Scottish National Galler

Beautiful Rebellion

There was a tradition of art collecting that led to great things…

Shunned by London’s art elite and condemned as dangerous by traditionalists, the 19th century’s emerging Pre-Raphaelite movement found a co-conspirator and home in Liverpool.

The Walker Art Gallery believe it was Liverpool that led Britain’s first modern art movement, and their new exhibition is bringing this to light, with typical dramatic flair.

‘Pre-Raphaelites: Beauty and Rebellion’ will feature more than 120 works by artists including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown and William Holman Hunt.

Described by the Guardian today as ‘the punk rockers of their day – subversive, rule-breaking, dangerous’, this brotherhood of artists changed the course of British art in the 19th century.

Walton-on-the-Naze, 1860, by Ford Madox Brown. Photograph: Birmingham Museums Trust
Walton-on-the-Naze, 1860, by Ford Madox Brown. Photograph: Birmingham Museums Trust

Walker Art Gallery’s curator Christopher Newall spoke to it’s Liverpool about the new exhibition:

“We are saying that Liverpool was a hugely significant place for the pre-Raphaelites. There was a tradition of art collecting that led to great things… but more than that there was a freedom of spirit, an intellectualism, a non-conformism and self-confidence that allowed this style of art to prosper.”

The exhibition states a compelling case that Liverpool’s art scene surpassed London’s. When the early pre-Raphaelites were being treated with distain by the Royal Academy in London, they were embraced with open arms by the Liverpool Academy, who were eager to exhibit the new and the daring.

Art Collectors
When Pre-Raphaelite artist struggled to sell their paintings, they found rich and willing patrons in Liverpool such as George Rae, who stuffed his Birkenhead house with the biggest Rossetti collection in the world.

Liverpool’s Walker Gallery already has one of the best collections of Pre-Raphaelite art in the country. But the new show will bring together more masterpieces, which are being loaned from institutions and private collections across the UK – many of which have never been on public display before.

The Walker show has three strands: the role of the Liverpool Academy, the wealthy patrons, and the Liverpool school of far less than household names who were inspired by what they saw.

The exhibition will not only feature works by the more famous artists, but will also look at how local merchants became great patrons of the London based Pre-Raphaelite painters, and how these in turn, influenced a generation of local artists such as Windus or Davis.

Pre-Raphaelite beauty from Walker Art Gallery
Pre-Raphaelite beauty from Walker Art Gallery

Pre-Raphaelites: Beauty and Rebellion contains works that, at first glance, may not seem to fit into the typical Pre-Raphaelite style, but a closer look reveals the minute attention to detail and accuracy so beloved by artists such as Holman Hunt or Ford Madox Brown.

For more information on ‘Pre-Raphaelites: Beauty and Rebellion’ click here and follow @walkergallery

Main image credit: Man of Sorrows, about 1860, by William Dyce, part of the Walker exhibition on the pre-Raphaelites. Photograph: Scottish National Gallery

Published: 10/02/2016

Newsletter