In the second half of the nineteenth century, three generations of young, rebellious artists and designers revolutionized the visual arts in Britain by challenging the new industrial world around them. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the champions of the Arts & Crafts Movement offered a radical artistic and social vision that found inspiration in the pre-industrial past and came to deeply influence visual culture in Britain and beyond. Drawn from the outstanding collection of the city of Birmingham, United Kingdom, Victorian Radicals will bring together an extensive array of works—many of which have never been exhibited outside the UK—to illuminate this dynamic period of British art.
Featuring approximately 145 works by pioneering artists including Ford Madox Brown, Edward Burne-Jones, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Elizabeth Siddall, Victorian Radicals will represent the spectrum of avant-garde practices of the Victorian era, emphasizing the response of Britain’s first modern art movement to the unfettered industrialization of the period. These artists’ attention to detail, use of vibrant colors, and engagement with both literary themes and contemporary life will be illustrated through a selection of paintings, drawings, and watercolors presented alongside outstanding examples of decorative art.
The exhibition explores the ideas that preoccupied artists and critics at the time—the relationship between art and nature, questions of class and gender identity, the value of the handmade versus machine production, and the search for beauty in an age of industry—issues that remain relevant and actively debated today.
Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts and Crafts Movement is organized by the American Federation of Arts and Birmingham Museums Trust. The exhibition is initially supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding provided by Clare McKeon and the Dr. Lee MacCormick Edwards Charitable Foundation.
Carole K. Anderson