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Pre-Raphaelites and the Decorative Arts

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How could Salvador Dali fail to be dazzled by the flagrant surrealism of English Pre-Raphaelitism? The Pre-Raphaelite painters bring us radiant women who are, at the same time, the most desirable and most frightening that exist. ~Salvador Dali, 1936


Pre-Raphaelites images are built around the symbolic and the sacred. Each element must have meaning, point to something beyong itself. Pre-Raphaelite work is laden with flowers and symbolism, mythic qualities and idealized women.

At Morris &. Co., designs for one medium were often translated into another medium. The Pre-Raphaelite artists here are "second wave", primarily Burne-Jones and Rossetti. Artists associated with the Aesthetic Movement ("Art for Art's Sake") are not really Pre-Raphaelite. The Pre-Raphaelite concept is closer to "Art for Truth's sake".

Morris, while not a fine artist, was emblematic of the Pre-Raphaelite Art as Truth philosophy and at the social and intellectual center of the second wave Pre-Raphaelites of the 1860-1890s. Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones was Morris's best friend, while his mentor-turned-business-partner Dante Gabriel Rossetti was emotionally involved with Morris's wife, Janey. Jane, as well as Morris's daughters, Jenny and May, modeled for his friends. Jenny Morris was the model for the Days of Creation, Rossetti was close to May and even considered trying to adopt her. George Howard also painted both girls.