Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts and Crafts Movement

Thursday, February 13, 2020
Sunday, May 10, 2020

In the second half of the nineteenth century, three generations of young rebellious artists and designers revolutionized the visual arts in Britain and challenged the new industrial world around them. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, William Morris and his associates, and the champions of the Arts and Crafts movement offered a radical artistic and social vision that found inspiration in the preindustrial past and decisively influenced visual culture in Britain and beyond. Victorian Radicals will bring together approximately 145 paintings, works on paper, and works of decorative art—many never shown outside the UK—to illuminate this most dynamic period of British art in an exhibition of unparalleled historical and visual richness.

Showcasing the work of Ford Madox Brown, Edward Burne-Jones, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Elizabeth Siddall, among others, this display will represent the spectrum of avant-garde practices of the Victorian 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 superb examples of decorative art.

Kate Elizabeth Bunce, Musica (detail), ca. 1895–97, oil on canvas in original frame, Presented by Sir John Holder, Bart., 1897, courtesy American Federation of Arts, © Birmingham Museums Trust

Victorian Radicals is curated by Tim Barringer, Paul Mellon Professor in the History of Art Department, with Martin Ellis and Victoria Osborne at Birmingham Museums Trust. The organizing curator at the Center is Courtney Skipton Long, Acting Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings. The exhibition is being organized by the American Federation of Arts and Birmingham Museums Trust.