San Francisco’s Legion Of Honor Is Hosting A Dazzling New Pre-Raphaelite Exhibition This Summer

The exhibition is the first to thoroughly explore the artwork of the old masters that inspired and captivated the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

The Legion of Honor in San Francisco is holding a new Pre-Raphaelite exhibition this summer.
Matt Dunham / Getty Images

The exhibition is the first to thoroughly explore the artwork of the old masters that inspired and captivated the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

The Legion of Honor in San Francisco is hosting the new Truth and Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Old Masters exhibition over the summer, in what will be the first time that there has been an international exhibition that places pre-Raphaelite paintings alongside artwork of the old masters that both inspired and captivated the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

It is well known that the Pre-Raphaelites adored their Italian masters, and this new exhibition will be showing many of their most beloved artists, including Sandro Botticelli, Raphael, Fra Angelico, and Paolo Veronese, as Artfixdaily report.

Max Hollein, the director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums, explained that the Legion of Honor exhibition will be a major curatorial feat with its huge collection of both Pre-Raphaelite paintings and other works of art by artists like Van Eyck.

“This exhibition is a remarkable curatorial accomplishment. Never before have extraordinary masterpieces such as Botticelli’s Idealized Portrait of a Lady (Simonetta Vespucci), Raphael’s Self Portrait, and Van Eyck’s The Annunciation been displayed with Pre-Raphaelite treasures including Mariana by John Everett Millais, The Lady of Shalott by William Holman Hunt, and Bocca Baciata by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.”

The new exhibition has been granted loans from major museums all over the world to cement just how indebted the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood would have been to the artists that preceded them, and, in turn, inspired them to create their own unique vision for their new brand of art in the 19th century, according to Hollein.

“Loans from major museum collections in Australia, Austria, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere in the United States have been gathered to explore how the renegade Pre-Raphaelites, represented by their most beloved works, engaged with the art of the past. The subject of how artists relate to their predecessors is eternal and one that still very visibly consumes artists of our own time.”

The seven men who formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, and William Holman Hunt, took umbrage at the artwork that was being displayed in 1848 at the Royal Academy of Art in England, calling its president, Sir Joshua Reynolds, by the nickname of Sir Sloshua.

It was their devout belief that when artists painted they should always embrace the beautiful truth that could only truly be found in nature, which they did by “rejecting nothing, selecting nothing, and scorning nothing.”

Melissa Buron, the curator of the new San Francisco exhibition, has said that while at first the Pre-Raphaelites seemed to shun the idea of imitating Raphael in any way, in later years they learned to respect many of these High Renaissance artists.

“The Pre-Raphaelites were deeply concerned with and inspired by their predecessors, but the name they chose for their brotherhood is a complicated misnomer. In their first phase, the Pre-Raphaelites renounced the idealized figures depicted by High Renaissance painters who were followers of Raphael, esteeming early Italian artists instead. As they matured, they also emulated Raphael, and even later artists such as the sixteenth-century Venetian painter, Veronese.”

Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Ruskin in 1864.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Ruskin in 1864. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

San Francisco’s Legion of Honor exhibition Truth and Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Old Masters will run from June 30 to September 30.