In general, medievalism is a framework that draws inspiration from the European Middle Ages. It was employed in art and architecture, literature, reenactments and performances, and political and social movements. In England during the Victorian period, medievalism acquired its own distinctiveness. It drew specifically on Saxon, Norman, and Viking culture as well as from the Italian Middle Ages and medieval Iceland. These influences are represented in the Kelmscott Press' publications of translated sagas, pseudo-medieval devotional verses, and interest in the Gothic over Classical models. These romanticized and idyllic notions of the Middle Ages were, for some in Victorian England, ways to cope with the many uncertainties of day to day life, from religion and faith to industrialization, modernity, and globalization.
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in 1848 by a group of seven English artists, poets and art critics: William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner. These men sought to return to the era of Quattrocento (15th-century) Italian art. They disliked the mechanical art style they observed in the Mannerists. Pre-Raphaelite art is characterized, in contrast to the Mannerists, by its rich details, complex and interesting compositions, and intense and varied use of color.
Content is another essential aspect of Pre-Raphaelite art. It uses the natural world and Biblical and medieval characters to create emotional and dramatic scenes. The Brotherhood would go on to influence a second generation of artists in the latter half of the 19th century: Evelyn de Morgan, John William Waterhouse, John Collier, and Marie Spartalia Stillman, among many others.