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Posted inArt

Shock of the Old: The Pre-Raphaelites Go Back to the Future

In its first iteration in London, Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, the survey now on view at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, bore the edgier title Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde. We may not customarily think of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) — founded in secret in September 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and soon attracting other artists — as an avant-garde, but the label does seem apt. The PRB painters and their affiliated artists were an embattled band of refuseniks, rejecting the standard practices of modern painting, and with it modernity itself, as corrupt and unsustainable.

Posted inArt

Postage Due: Joan Miró’s Alternative History

For a call for help, it packs a punch: an outsized yellow fist, raised in salute, all but leaps out of the blue background of Joan Miró’s color stencil “Aidez l’Espagne” (“Help Spain,” 1937). Open-mouthed, the stylized Catalan peasant who dominates the image is an emblem of strength and energy — a rooster crowing, a poet singing. In his paintings of the 1920s and 1930s, Miró achieved an unsettling power by delving into the unconscious, creating yawning expanses suggestive of colorful abysses and symbol-laden dreamscapes strewn with biomorphic forms. But in “Aidez l’Espagne,” he opted for the direct simplicity of graphic propaganda.