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Religion and Spirituality in Pre-Raphaelite Art
- Course Dates: Fri 5 June 2015, 6:00 pm to Sun 7 June 2015, 2:00 pm
This weekend course will examine the work of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of painters and their circle, including Holman Hunt, Everett Millais, Rossetti, and Burne-Jones.
The course will begin with an overview of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood and the artists associated with the group, and an examination of their early doctrines. Influenced by the Oxford movement and the Victorian restoration of Christian traditions, the Pre-Raphaelites believed medieval art to possess a spiritual and creative integrity, and many of their artworks contain religious subject-matter which communicated a message of moral reform.
The course will examine a number of key Pre-Raphaelite works, with a view to unravelling their religious symbolism and iconography. We will consider the purpose of the artworks – i.e. how the artists or commissioners envisaged viewers should engage with paintings, stained glass and tapestries – and reflect on how these functioned (and still function today) within religious spaces. Works under investigation include Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World (versions at Keble College, University of Oxford and St Paul’s Cathedral), and the Edward Burne-Jones Adoration of the Magi tapestry (versions at Exeter College Chapel, University of Oxford and Eton College Chapel). We will also experience first-hand the Salisbury Cathedral south choir aisle window, designed by Burne-Jones and realized by William Morris.
The course will consider the function of religious paintings located in secular settings, including the recently-discovered murals depicting Adam and Eve, Noah, Rachel and Jacob at The Red House (Bexleyheath, London), designed by Morris for his bedroom. We will also explore some of the controversial art produced by the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood – notably John Everett Millais’ Christ in the House of His Parents which was criticized by Charles Dickens for its realism and unappealing figures of Christ and the Virgin – and consider to what extent these are truly spiritual works.