Pre-Raphaelite Sisters

Book Design

A new publication for an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery dedicated to the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Pentagram has designed a publication to accompany the first exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London to be dedicated to the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of mid-nineteenth-century young British artists who were inspired by the Florentine painters known as the ‘Italian Primitives’, and who rebelled against the restrictive post-Renaissance style of painting made popular by the Royal Academician Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Women have often been overlooked in the story of the Pre-Raphaelites. Even though most of the art was created by men in male-dominated studios, women played an essential part, working as artists in their own right and as models, muses and creative partners. They also played a crucial role in how the artworks were produced, managing the artists’ studios and their clients, as well as the careers of their partners and husbands.

The book starts with a Pre-Raphaelite timeline spanning a hundred years from the accession of Queen Victoria and featuring key events. This is followed by a series of artists’ profiles interspersed with essays on topics such as Model Wives & Mistresses and The Sisterhood & its Afterlife.

The alternate rhythm of the content is defined by full-page chapter openers set in SangBleu Empire, a high-contrast display typeface blending modern features with contemporary details.

With elegant titles, a spare and sophisticated use of key lines and pull-out quotes throughout, the design references the editorial language of lifestyle magazines to emphasise the book’s fresh take on the subject.

The front cover features a detail from Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s much loved 1877 painting Proserpine, with gold foil contrasting beautifully with the blue velvet robes of Rossetti’s model and lover, Jane Morris. The back cover features the full list of Sisters’ names set in SangBleu and printed in rich gold against the teal backdrop. 

Astrid Stavro
Project team
Susanna Foppoli
View all images