Review of the conference

Margje Bijl, who presented a short video of her artistic practice at the ‘Pre-Raphaelite Sisters: Making Art’ conference at the University of York on 13 December, has written a splendid review of the conference as a whole. You can read it on Margje’s blog here.

Margje’s review also reflects on the ‘Pre-Raphaelite Sisters’ exhibition at the NPG, and Jane Morris’s place within the show – ‘I think it is a missed opportunity to highlight Jane’s own creativity and influence as an artist’.

26 January 2014, 2014, digital photograph 29×44 cm (Wieteke Opmeer), courtesy of ‘Reflections on Jane Morris’

Exciting news!

We are delighted to announce that Pre-Raphaelite Sisters: Making Art is being supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, who will provide us with an Event Support Grant. We wish to thank the PMC for their generosity!

Don’t forget that tickets for the conference are still available on Eventbrite – they’re selling quickly, however, so make sure you get yours before they’re gone!

We look forward to welcoming you in December. For details about getting to us – such as parking on the University of York campus and suggestions for accommodation – see the ‘Information for the conference’ page.

Reminder: register to vote!

It is now clear that the first day of the conference, Thursday 12 December, will coincide with the next UK general election which was recently announced – a circumstance we could not have foreseen when we set the dates months ago. Therefore, speakers and attendees who live in the UK must make sure they register for either a postal or proxy vote if they will be absent from their constituency on this day. (If you are already based in York then it will probably be fine.)

Registering only takes a few minutes and can be done so online here. In order to vote in this general election you must be registered by at least Monday 25 November. See this article on The Guardian for more details.

Thank you all in advance.

Call for new research on Pre-Raphaelite women for publication

Due to the enormously positive response to the call for papers, we have been unable to represent in the conference the work of all the women involved in the Pre-Raphaelite movement. We therefore hope to include a wider range of women artists and poets in a subsequent publication. This will be discussed at the conference, but we would also like to hear in the meantime from anyone who has new research to contribute on any of the Pre-Raphaelite women.

These women could include Evelyn De Morgan, Marie Spartali Stillman, Christina Rossetti, Rosa Brett, Joanna Boyce Wells, Jane and May Morris, Julia Margaret Cameron, Georgiana Burne-Jones, Annie Miller, Alexa Wilding, and many more.

Do write to us – – and tell us more about your research, so we can consider it for the expanded publication. In the meantime, we would be delighted if you could join us at the conference in December for a fascinating couple of days of new research and new ideas. There are plenty of tickets still available for purchase here.

Header image: Maria Zambaco, Marie Spartali Stillman, 1886. Bronze medallion. British Museum.

Tickets for Pre-Raphaelite Sisters: Making Art

Tickets for the conference are now on sale! Click here for more details.

The deadline for abstracts has now passed and we are in the process of finalising the programme. If you have submitted an abstract, keep an eye on your email inbox and we will notify you in due course. Many thanks indeed for all your submissions!

New confirmed speaker

We have some exciting news to share!

We are delighted and honoured to announce that Brian Eaton, great grandson of Pre-Raphaelite model Fanny Eaton, will be speaking at our conference. Brian will give a personal insight into the woman whose beautiful face graced so many paintings, including this one by Joanna Wells (née Boyce).

Joanna Boyce Wells, Fanny Eaton, 1861. Oil on paper laid to linen, 17.1 x 13.7 cm. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.

We are still welcoming abstracts for papers which celebrate the lives and achievements of the remarkable women of the Pre-Raphaelite circle – see the call for papers for further details. The deadline is not until 28 September, so there’s still plenty of time!

Pre-Raphaelite Sisters: Making Art

A conference to be held at the University of York on 12–13 December 2019, in conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition Pre-Raphaelite Sisters (17 October 2019 – 26 January 2020).

Deadline for abstracts: 28 September 2019.

Keynote speakers confirmed:

  • Dr Jan Marsh (Art Historian and Curator, National Portrait Gallery, London)
  • Kirsty Stonell Walker (Author, Pre-Raphaelite Girl Gang)

Opening remarks by Professor Elizabeth Prettejohn.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, Elizabeth Prettejohn wrote:

It is not sufficient merely to add some women to the Pre-Raphaelite canon.  Instead it is a matter of writing a wholly new, and different, story about Pre-Raphaelitism – a story in which the activities of women are no longer incidental, but necessary to the plot.

the art of the pre-raphaelites (London: tate publishing, 2000), p.69.

This two-day conference will take up Prettejohn’s challenge and explore the roles played and diverse contributions made by women to the creation of Pre-Raphaelite art.

According to popular history, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was formed in 1848 when three disillusioned and rebellious young artists undertook to revolutionise the traditional art being produced by the British Royal Academy. In order to fulfil their aim of truth to nature, every detail was painted from life, with members often posing for each other to ensure individualism. They continually sought ‘Stunners’, or models possessing a unique natural beauty, to differentiate their work from the conventional portraits painted by conformist academicians. As well as becoming models, these women also became the artists’ lovers, wives, and in some cases pupils, producing their own works which played a significant role in the development of Pre-Raphaelite art.

The faces of the Pre-Raphaelite Sisters gaze from iconic canvasses such as John Everett Millais’s Ophelia (1851–2, London, Tate Gallery) and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Bocca Baciata (1859, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mass. USA).  Their male creators are celebrated for their skill and ingenuity, while art history has selectively ignored the critical reality that these works simply would not exist without the contribution made by the Pre-Raphaelite Sisters.

We welcome proposals for twenty-minute papers (or optional ten-minute snapshots for MA students) relating to any aspect of the life, work and aspirations of the twelve women featured in the exhibition (listed below) or any others associated with the Pre-Raphaelite circle:

  • Effie Millais (née Gray, also Mrs John Ruskin)
  • Elizabeth Eleanor Rossetti (née Siddall)
  • Annie Miller (later Mrs Thomas Thompson)
  • Christina Rossetti
  • Joanna Wells (née Boyce)
  • Fanny Cornforth (born Sarah Cox, later Mrs Timothy Hughes and subsequently Mrs John Schott)
  • Georgiana Burne-Jones (née Macdonald)
  • Jane Morris (née Burden)
  • Marie Stillman (née Spartali)
  • Fanny Eaton (née Antwhistle)
  • Maria Zambaco (née Cassavetti)
  • Evelyn de Morgan (née Pickering)

Each of these women is important to the history of Pre-Raphaelitism. Though their backgrounds and lives are wide-ranging, every one of them made a significant contribution to the creation of Pre-Raphaelite art, whether fulfilling the role of model, muse, maker, wife, lover, collector or poet. This contribution demands recognition.

Please submit abstracts (maximum 200 words) to Glenda Youde ( by 28 September 2019.

Header image: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Rossetti sitting to Elizabeth Siddal, 1853. Pen and ink on paper. Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery. Reproduced under Creative Commons Zero licence (CC0).