An unprecedented selection of paintings, works on paper, and decorative arts—many never shown outside the UK—by three generations of revolutionary British artists and designers.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, three generations of young, rebellious artists and designers revolutionized the visual arts in Britain, engaging with and challenging the new industrial world around them. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, William Morris and his associates, 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 decisively influence visual culture in Britain and beyond. Drawn from the outstanding collection of the city of Birmingham, United Kingdom, Victorian Radicals will, for the first time, bring together paintings, works on paper, and decorative arts—many never shown outside the UK—to illuminate this most dynamic period of British art in an exhibition of unparalleled historical and visual richness.
Through approximately 145 objects by pioneering artists including Ford Madox Brown, Edward Burne-Jones, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Elizabeth Siddall, among others, Victorian Radicals will represent the spectrum of avant-garde practices of the Victorian period, emphasizing the response of Britain’s first modern art movements to unfettered industrialization. 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.
Caring for the largest Pre-Raphaelite collection in the world and with extraordinarily rich holdings of Victorian fine and decorative art, Birmingham Museums Trust is uniquely positioned to tell the story of the Pre-Raphaelites and other foundational artistic movements of the modern era. The exhibition will explore 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.
The exhibition is accompanied by a new catalogue of the same title published by the AFA and DelMonico Books•Prestel. This generously illustrated and exciting new study of the Victorian era features rarely seen works, provocative essays, and a striking, period-inspired design.
Publication available for purchase here.
Tim Barringer is Paul Mellon Professor and Chair of the History of Art at Yale University. He specializes in the art of Britain and the British Empire, notably the Pre-Raphaelites, and American painting. He has curated exhibitions at Tate Britain, Yale and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Martin Ellis is a freelance curator, lecturer, and broadcaster. As Curator of Applied Art at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery for many years, he has particular expertise in the fields of metalwork, ceramics, and stained glass.
Victoria Osborne is Curator of Fine Art for Birmingham Museums Trust, specializing in British nineteenth-century works on paper. She has co-curated several major international loan exhibitions of British nineteenth-century art.
Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement is organized by the American Federation of Arts and Birmingham Museums Trust. This exhibition is 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.