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American Pre-Raphaelitism through the Lens and on the Canvas

Sophie Lynford, doctoral candidate in the history of art, Yale University; Diane Waggoner, curator of 19th-century photographs, National Gallery of Art

In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Ruskin (1819–1900), the most influential art critic of the Victorian era, the Gallery presents The American Pre-Raphaelites: Radical Realists, an exhibition of some 90 artworks created by American artists who were profoundly influenced by Ruskin’s call for a revolutionary change in the practice of art. A group of artists, architects, scientists, critics, and collectors sympathetic to Ruskin’s ideas formed the Association for the Advancement of Truth in Art, which sought reform not only in artistic practices, but also in the broader political arena. In a paired lecture delivered at the National Gallery of Art on June 16, 2019, Sophie Lynford and Diane Waggoner described further what Lynford has called the American Pre-Raphaelites’ “comprehensive, multipronged agenda.” By looking beyond painting to the group’s ideas about architecture and photography, Lynford and Waggoner more fully illustrated the philosophy of the American Pre-Raphaelites, whose search for truth had both pictorial and moral stakes.