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In the second half of the 19th century, three generations of young, rebellious artists and designers revolutionized the visual arts in Britain by engaging and challenging the new industrial world around them. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and champions of the Arts & Crafts Movement offered a radical artistic and social vision inspired by the pre-industrial past. Their work deeply influenced visual culture in Britain and beyond. Organized from the outstanding collection of the city of Birmingham, United Kingdom, Victorian Radicals brings together an extensive array of works—many of which have never been exhibited outside of the UK—to illuminate this dynamic period of British art.
Featuring works by pioneering artists such as Ford Madox Brown, Edward Burne-Jones, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Elizabeth Siddall, Victorian Radicals represents the spectrum of avant-garde practices of the Victorian era, emphasizing the response of Britain’s first modern art movement to the unfettered industrialization of the period. These artists’ attention to detail, use of vibrant colors, and engagement with both literary themes and contemporary life are illustrated through a selection of paintings, drawings, and watercolors presented alongside outstanding examples of decorative arts.
This exhibition explores ideas that preoccupied artists and critics of the period—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.
Victorian Radicals 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. Major exhibition program support for the Pittsburgh presentation is provided by the Richard King Mellon Foundation.