Liberated from the constraints of tradition, the Pre-Raphaelites of mid-Victorian England produced distinctive representations of nature and society in paintings remarkable for their compositional vitality and hallucinatory effects of colour. This illustrated book provides an appraisal of the pre-Raphaelite artists and their radical departure from artistic conventions. Tim Barringer explores the meanings so richly encoded in pre-Raphaelite paintings and analyses key pictures and their significance within the complex social and cultural matrix of 19th-century Britain. In chapters devoted to core themes, the author discusses such artists as John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Ford Madox Brown and their engagement with medieval revivalism, nature worship, issues of class and gender, and the reconciliation of the religious image and realism. Barringer draws on an imaginative selection of paintings, drawings, and contemporary photographs to suggest that the dynamic energy of pre-Raphaelitism arose from paradoxes at its heart. Past and present, historicism and modernity, symbolism and realism, as well as tensions between city and country, man and woman, worker and capitalist, colonizer and colonized - all appear within pre-Raphaelite art. Focusing on these issues, the author casts new light on the pre-Raphaelites and their innovative work.