Images of Victorian Women by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood Essay

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The Victorian Era was one of great changes in England. Revolutionary movements, such as the Chartist demonstration and the fall of the Second Empire in France, paved the way for new ideologies. The Pre-Raphaelites were inspired by the changing atmosphere of the times and through their art attempted to introduce emotion, realism and originality back into British painting. The members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, F.G. Stephens, Thomas Woolner, James Collinson, and William Michael Rossetti. These seven men chose to reject the Italian Renaissance, in particular Raphael’s influence, which was the style favoured by the British Royal Academy. Part of the…show more content…
In Waterhouse’s painting, the Lady drifts down the river towards Camelot, her agonized face betraying feelings of loneliness and despair. The Lady of Shalott would eventually die abandoned by her own love, Sir Lancelot. The concept of feminine weakness was common during the Victorian period, with a woman being dominated by her husband. Yet at this time, all were in fact ruled by a woman, Queen Victoria I. Her reign marked the beginning of Britain's journey towards gender equality and saw the rise of the suffragette movement, which was led by women who actively campaigned to get the vote. Though the Pre-Raphaelites were painting at a time when great strides were being made towards gender equality, they still chose to depict women as the “weaker sex.” Another common theme in Pre-Raphaelite art is the “fallen woman.” This type is exemplified by Holman Hunt’s The Awakening Conscience which deals with the problem of prostitution. A prostitute, as evidenced by her state of undress, her freed tresses, and the lack of a ring on a certain finger, was sitting with her lover, when she was struck by guilt and seeing the error of her ways, tried to stand up. The man, oblivious to what has happened, kept on playing the piano. However the title of the painting, The Awakening Conscience, gives hope that the woman eventually may return to the path of righteousness,
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