Being a Radical Artist in Victorian England:

Lecture by Julie Codell, Professor of Art History, Arizona State University

Join us for a lecture this fall with Julie Codell, Professor of Art History, Arizona State University

Wednesday, December 5 | 6-7 pm
Registration details coming soon!

What makes the Pre-Raphaelites radical or avant-garde? This much-debated question reflects a reaction to presumptions that modernism was French (e.g., cubism, surrealism, dada, etc.) and later American (e.g., Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Pop Art, etc.). The Pre-Raphaelites did overturn artistic conventions of color, narrative, and space, and later artists adopted many of their revisions. Their innovations in color influenced Impressionists; their narrative techniques inspired other British artists; and their attention to minute details enthralled Surrealists. But from Victorians’ points of view these artists’ most daring radicalism was their representation of the human body, especially figures of women. Pre-Raphaelites disobeyed every Victorian figural convention in art, challenging depictions of gesture, posture, body language, female beauty, social decorum, gender, class, and emotional expression.

Professor Julie Codell will examine these radical innovations in their images of the human body that have not as readily been borrowed by later artists, but which still remain perhaps their most radical defiance of conventions in art and of the Victorian social order that art was expected to reflect and endorse.


Henry Wallis, Chatterton (The Death of Chatterton), 1856–58. Oil on mahogany panel, 6 13/16 x 9 15/16 in., Birmingham Museums Trust (1918P43). © Birmingham Museums Trust