Victorian art and architecture

Pugin, Burne-Jones and other 19th-century British artists responded to the industrialized present by looking to an idealized past.
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In 1848, a small group of young artists banded together and formed “The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood,” a name which sounds intentionally backward-looking and medieval. The Pre-Raphaelites looked back to art before the time of Raphael (before about 1500 that is)—before the art of the Renaissance was reduced to formulas followed for centuries by artists associated with the art academies of Europe. Their idea was that the art before Raphael was more sincere, more true to nature and how we see, and therefore less formulaic. These artists also embraced a wide range of subjects, including modern life, biblical and literary subjects, and even history. By looking backwards, the Pre-Raphaelites led British art into the modern era.

British art saw a return to the classical after the 1860s, not just in terms of style, but also subject matter. Alma Tadema created sensual Victorian visions of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and Leighton too rendered classicizing figures and subjects. Both of these artists, together with Sargent, were influenced by the Aesthetic Movement, where the subject or narrative of a work of art was minimized in favor of a focus on issues of form (color harmonies, line, composition).