Pre-Raphaelites in The City: Childhood

Dinah Roe

Sass’s Drawing Academy: A Pre-Raphaelite Prep School (Another London Venue In Which Rossetti Misbehaved)

If ever there was a London building crying out for a blue plaque, it is number 10 Bloomsbury Street, former headquarters of Sass’s Drawing Academy, a feeder school for the Royal Academy. It was here that aspiring painters John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Walter Howell Deverell took their early training. Rossetti and Deverell met at Sass’s, but child prodigy Millais had already entered the Royal Academy Schools by the time they began their studies. Other distinguished graduates include Augustus Egg, Edward Lear, Charles West Cope, Henry Hugh Armstead and William Powell Frith, most famous for his work Derby Day (1858).

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A Pre-Raphaelite Dream Factory Holman Hunt's Urban Childhood

The Victorian era is remembered for its soul-deadening factories, where men, women and children worked long, gruelling hours in hazardous conditions for little pay. But for one Pre-Raphaelite Brother, a Cheapside factory proved an unlikely inspiration; when future painter William Holman Hunt was growing up, a cotton winding factory was his playground. His father was the manager of a warehouse in Dyer’s Court, Aldermanbury, on whose upper floors female ‘winders’ operated noisy hand machines which wound cotton and thread into balls and on reels.

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Pre-Raphaelites in the City

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This blog explores the thriving Victorian cities which inspired the Pre-Raphaelites, and were shaped by them in turn. While the Pre-Raphaelites produced poetry and art praising the natural world, most were born and raised in urban environments, and their work retained a cosmopolitan sensibility. Although this blog will sometimes take excursions into the countryside, its focus will remain on city life. If you want more information on images or sources, please get in touch.