Pre-Raphaelite Sisters

Meet the women painted over by history

These women actively helped form the Pre-Raphaelite movement as we know it. It is time to acknowledge their agency and explore their contributions.

Dr Jan Marsh, Curator

The male artists of the 19th-century movement are collectively known as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. But what about the sisters? Elizabeth Siddal, Evelyn de Morgan, Effie Gray, Joanna Wells – some have made it into the art history books, but the stories of others remain largely untold. For the first time ever, this major Pre-Raphaelite exhibition celebrates the roles of twelve women behind the portraits.

Looking back at Pre-Raphaelite London

In 1848, the young British artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood sparked a revolution in the art world. Striking out against what they viewed as the stuffy artifice of the Royal Academy, three students – Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais – started a secret society. It was a society that took inspiration from 15th-century Italian art and the theories of John Ruskin to create direct, detailed and naturalistic paintings.

Many famous Pre-Raphaelite painters are known for featuring strikingly beautiful women in their work. The female names associated with the movement conjure images of models, wives and sisters. Taking twelve women out of these traditional boxes and reframing them as artists, makers, partners and poets, this Pre-Raphaelite exhibition reveals the active women behind the passive labels.

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17 October 2019 - 26 January 2020


National Portrait Gallery
St Martin’s Place