From the mid-19th Century, a group of poets, painters, illustrators, and designers blazed a trail for a new kind of art. They became known as the Pre-Raphaelites. Flouting classical conventions of symmetry, proportion and chiaroscuro (use of light and dark), they abandoned detail and truth to nature, to create works rich in symbolism. They are sometimes depicted as the founders of modern art, so great was their radical approach to the norm.
The movement started in London, but within 10 years it enjoyed a second phase in 1857 driven by William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. Both were at Exeter College Oxford studying theology and developed a vision for social reform through the Arts and Crafts movement. We are blessed with a wealth of their work in Oxford.
One of the first works of the Pre Raphaelites in Oxford was the Arthurian murals in the Oxford Union, where Jane Burden was depicted, being the muse of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Burne-Jones.
Start your journey of discovery in the Chapel of Keble College with William Holman Hunt’s Light of the World. Progress to the Chapel of Harris Manchester College where all the stained-glass windows were designed by William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. They even painted the organ pipes!
Proceed through St Helen's Passage, (entrance to the Turf Tavern) viewing the blue plaque to the birthplace of Jane Burden. She later became the wife of Morris and the lover of Rosetti.
Go into Exeter College Chapel and view the stunning 2019 restoration of the “Adoration of the Magi” tapestry.
Pop into the Ashmolean Museum where there is a permanent exhibition to the Pre-Raphaelites.
Finish with a trip into the Cathedral of Christ Church to marvel at the Edward Burn Jones, Saint Frideswide window in the Latin chapel.
If time allows, add a trip to the Oxford Museum of Natural History. Nearly all the members of the Pre-Raphaelite circle were involved in the decorations of the museum. It is one of the greatest Pre-Raphaelite works of art. Start with the carvings over the entrance; check out the windows, the statutes of scientists, the murals, and the iron work