The Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna follows up a Burne-Jones retrospective it hosted twenty-five years ago with a hundred pre-Raphaelite works illustrating the influence of Italian art on Victorian England.
Formed in London in 1848, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, like the Impressionists, felt challenged by photography and the emerging science of color. Whereas the Impressionists took to the fields, the Pre-Raphaelites closed themselves in a private, inner world of nostalgia. They staunchly opposed the academy as they strove to recapture pre-Renaissance ethical sensibilities, assimilating and re-expressing them in the language of modernity. They rejected Raphael because he forsook the truth for ideal beauty. They concluded that the only way forward was to go backward and construct a new grammar with elements of Gothicism, Romanticism, and Classicism, recapturing a Gefühl for nature to counter the devastating effects of “progress” on rural and artisanal life.