Pre-Raphaelites and Illustration

John Everett Millais

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood had a very important impact on book illustration from the middle of the 19th Century. This was not because of the number of illustrations that they produced, which was not large, but because they raised the craft of illustration to high art, and gave an inspiration to generations of future illustrators, some of whom continued to draw in the Pre-Raphaelite style long after painting had moved in other directions.

The startling drawings of Rossetti, Millais and Holman Hunt first appeared in Allingham's The Music Master, in the Moxon Tennyson and in Willmott's Poets of the Nineteenth Century.

Holman Hunt

Arthur Hughes made evocative pictures for children's stories such as MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind (1871), and in the 1860s Simeon Solomon, another Pre-Raphaelite artist, drew pictures of Jewish life in a mysterious, almost impressionistic fashion. Frederick Sandys was a close follower of the Pre-Raphaelites whose strong draughtsmanship made him especially effective in woodcut illustration.

Arthur Hughes Simeon Solomon

Dalziel's Bible Gallery (1881) drew together the Pre-Raphaelites with Classicists such as Leighton, Watts and Poynter. Walter Crane, strongly influenced by Rossetti and by the Classicists, illustrated toy books in the 1860s-1880s in black and white and colour, and has been popular ever since. Burne-Jones, also influenced by Rossetti, collaborated with William Morris to produce collector's books, the most lavish of which was the Kelmscott Chaucer, which in turn inspired the young Aubrey Beardsley's art nouveau pictures for Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur.

Walter Crane

In the illustrated magazines, Henry Ryland, Heywood Sumner, Arthur Gaskin and others made Pre-Raphaelite pictures in the 1880s and 1890s.

Henry Ryland

The period of wood-cut Pre-Raphaelite illustration, at its peak in the 1850s and 1860s, evolving into the purely decorative illustrations of Crane and the Arts and Crafts of Morris and Burne-Jones, and the art nouveau of Gaskin, came to an end as wash and photographs replaced line around the turn of the century. The crisp black and white lines of the wood cut were replaced by a grey and undemanding style of illustration, and although a few last Pre-Raphaelite sympathisers such as Evelyn Paul, W. J. Neatby and later, William Russell Flint worked on in the new medium and in cheap colour, the best period of book illustration was over.


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