The Pre-Raphaelites are admired for the groundbreaking combination of vibrant color, naturalism and emotional charge contained in their paintings. What is far less known is that early in their careers they were accomplished book illustrators.
They captured and interpreted the rich visual imagery of poetry by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in black-and-white wood-engraving and produced works of astounding, sometimes shocking, originality. Moxon’s Tennyson volume published in 1857 showcased their new approach to illustration and favorite subjects such as the Lady of Shalott, St. Cecilia and Mariana enthralled and baffled the public, including Tennyson himself. The burgeoning Victorian magazine industry provided a lucrative market for this work. Graphic works by Pre-Raphaelite artists and their acolytes Sir Edward Burne-Jones ARA and Simeon Solomon, engraved by expert Fleet Street craftsmen, appeared regularly in religious journals Good Words, Once a Week and Leisure Hour during the 1860s.
The Royal Academy holds a collection of these works in print and book form. We are delighted to show a small selection in the Library Print Room, giving further insight into the literary and emotional sources of Pre-Raphaelite creativity. The display will also contain examples of related mid-Victorian illustration by Frederick Sandys, Lord Leighton PRA and Sir Edward Poynter PRA.
(Photo: Sir Edward Burne-Jones ARA,The Summer Snow, 1863, wood engraving, © Royal Academy of Arts, London)