(Left: "Lady Lilith" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of the movement's leading lights.)
To passing readers in the USA, the Pre-Raphaelite movement might seem obscure. Its art was, and is, largely unrecognised here. It didn't travel across the Atlantic as well as did Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Even so, I think that over the decades some of the best examples may have become familiar worldwide.
In England, in 1848, three artists banded together, deciding that they'd had enough of the current British art scene. They were irked by what they saw as stagnant and uninspiring work. Paintings at that time consisted mainly of boring landscapes with cattle, stags at bay, seascapes, still life studies, or family portraits.
The three rebellious artists seeking change were Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, and Sir John Everett Millais. The name of the movement they founded - "The Pre-Raphaelites" stems from their determination to take inspiration from a time before the artist Raphael set standards in art which they felt had been followed for too long. Their vision was to paint real, unidealised landscapes, figures drawn from life, to real proportions, and grouped without stylised arrangement. They favoured subjects from poetry, mythology, religion or mediaeval tales. Paintings were to be vibrant, so they used a white paint background base - which certainly adds impact when viewed next to other contemporary Victorian art. Vivid colour and lyrical forms were to be used for dramatic and emotional effect. Several other artists soon joined the original three, and their work became well known in Britain, attracting both criticism and praise from contemporaries.
I've set 12 noon charts for the three principal founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, half expecting to see some link between them involving Uranus, reflecting their common rebellious attitude - but the link comes via Jupiter. Jupiter is the royal blue glyph like an "L" with a cross on the horizontal bar.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti born 12 May 1828, London, England.
William Holman Hunt born 2 April 1827, London, England.
Sir John Everett Millais born 8 June 1829, Southampton, England.
Immediately clear is Jupiter's opposition to Sun, or Mercury in each case.
Rossetti - Sun 21* Taurus, Mercury 8* opposed by Jupiter @ 7 Scorpio.
Millais- Sun 17* Gemini opposed by Jupiter 9* Sagittarius.
Holman Hunt -Sun 11* Aries opposed by Jupiter 9* Libra (Pluto and Mercury at 5* and 17*Aries respectively.
Less significantly, in all 3 charts, Neptune in Capricorn (widely) opposes a personal planet in Cancer.
The oppositions involving Jupiter are significant. Skyscript has this to say about such aspects:
"The opposition of the Sun and Jupiter suggests an over-expanded ego. Jupiter deals with judgment, and with this aspect, the drive for significance is subject to being overemphasized. There is often a tendency toward extravagance and pretension. You can have too much optimism, and promise more than you can deliver. There is a continuous need to control urges to enter grandiose schemes and avoid ostentatious manners. The strength of this aspect lies in the ability to apply much charm to gain the approval of those dealt with in daily affairs. There is often much talent and creativity associated with this aspect." ( Jupiter/Mercury opposition is mainly similar).
Pretension, over-optimism, grandiose schemes, fit the bill quite well. I guess it was pretty pretentious in those days to think one could do better than "the establishment" in art. It must have been quite a challenge to stand against the status quo in the art world of Victorian England. Uranus would seem a more appropriate focus in such a case, yet this group of artists were actually looking backward for inspiration, rather than inventing a new style, so Uranus energy may not be applicable.
Weboteric Astrology tells us:
Jupiter rules the law and moral authority, and our attitude to these issues. It brings a strong desire for understanding and the tendency to have powerful opinions and convictions The aspects Jupiter makes shows a psychological identity characteristic where the need for expansion, influence and understanding is paramount. These aspects show the specific personal drives where the search for wisdom is most intense.
Even though Jupiter is found in 3 different signs, elements and modes (Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius - Air, Water, Fire - Cardinal, Fixed, Mutable) the strong link between the three charts remains. Jupiter is in a similar section of the relevant sign (7 or 9 degrees) and in similar aspect to Sun and/or Mercury.
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood disbanded after a few years but, in England at least, their body of work has endured. I enjoy their paintings a lot. I saw a collection of Pre-Raphaelite art at the Manchester City Art Gallery on my last visit to the UK. It was wonderful to encounter the real thing at close quarters. These are not works to hang in today's small living rooms, they are large pieces, need gallery space and the right light to show off fine workmanship and vibrant colors.
ROMAN WIDOW ~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti
BOWER MEADOW ~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti
ISABELLA & THE POT OF BASIL ~ William Holman Huntdepicting a scene from John Keats's poem of the same name. It depicts the heroine Isabella caressing the basil pot in which she had buried her murdered lover Lorenzo's severed head.
THE HIRELING SHEPHERD ~ William Holman Hunt
BUBBLES ~ Sir John Everett Millais
THE NORTH-WEST PASSAGE ~ Sir John Everett Millais