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Press release

The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy: British Art and Design
May 20-October 26, 2014


Exhibition Location: Robert Lehman Wing, Gallery 955, Main Floor
Press Preview: Monday, May 19, 10:00 a.m.–noon

In 1855, Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris decided to abandon their theological studies at Oxford and become artists. The friends turned for guidance to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a leader of the recently disbanded Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (1848–1853), a group that had galvanized British painting with their rejection of academic convention, and had sought to make work that was vivid, sincere, and uplifting, taking as their model art from before the time of Raphael. Together, Burne-Jones, Morris, and Rossetti expanded these principles. Their decades-long creative dialogue stimulated fresh goals and styles that defined a second wave of Pre-Raphaelite art in the key decades from the 1860s through the 1890s.

Over the past century, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has acquired a varied group of objects, ranging from lengths of fabric to signature works, that represent the accomplishments of this extraordinary trio and their circle. The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy: British Art and Design features 26 objects from the Museum’s holdings and four loans from local private collections—including paintings, drawings, furniture, ceramics, textiles, stained glass, and book illustrations—highlighting the key period when the Pre-Raphaelite vision was adapted and transformed.

The exhibition is made possible by the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust.

Works by Burne-Jones anchor the exhibition. His masterpiece The Love Song (1868–77), the Metropolitan Museum’s sole major Pre-Raphaelite painting, is displayed along with an early painted cabinet, The Backgammon Players (1861) and a late tapestry, Angeli Laudantes (1898), both products of Burne-Jones’s long, fruitful collaboration with Morris. These are united for the first time, along with supporting works by artists ranging from Ford Madox Brown to Aubrey Beardsley and Julia Margaret Cameron, revealing the enduring impact of Pre-Raphaelite ideals as they were taken up by others and developed across a range of media.

The exhibition demonstrates the shared reverence for the past and for beauty that stimulated such diverse endeavors among these artists and their circle as Rossetti’s depiction of sensuous model-muses in poetic guise; Burne-Jones’s evocation of the lofty themes of romance, music, and spirituality; and Morris & Company’s production of decorative works inspired by medieval craft traditions. Their efforts to elevate modern life cut across traditional divisions in the arts, forging connections between painting, drawing, poetry, music, and design.

Today, at a time of renewed appreciation for the Pre-Raphaelites, this exhibition—the first devoted to the subject at the Metropolitan Museum in more than 15 years—offers an opportunity to consider afresh this aspect of the Museum’s collection.

Exhibition Credits
The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy: British Art and Design is organized by Constance McPhee, Curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints, and Alison Hokanson, Research Associate in the Department of European Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated color brochure.

Related Programs
Education programs include a Sunday at the Met event on June 15, musical performances in the exhibition galleries on July 27, and exhibition tours.

Additional information about the exhibition and its accompanying programs is available on the Museum’s website at

Related Installations
The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy is complemented by two other installations currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum. William Morris Textiles and Wallpapers, on view in Gallery 599 through July 20, features a selection of printed textiles and wallpapers from the Museum’s collection which were produced by Morris & Company, as well as historic textiles of the type that inspired Morris and his colleagues. Prints from the Metropolitan’s collection by members of the original Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and artists in their circle are on display in Gallery 690 through July 14.


May 19, 2014

Edward Burne-Jones's Inspiration for The Love Song: Victor Massé, "La chanson de Marie"

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