Pre-Raphaelite Art and the Influence of Opium on Ways of Seeing


  • Suzanne Bode


The article explores how increased use of opium to combat epidemics and disease affected Pre-Raphaelite painters and their audiences from the 1850s to 1880s. It argues that opium altered artists’ perceptions of the world and played an important role both in the development of Pre-Raphaelite composition and in forming the ideas of the Aesthetic Movement. The author also proposes that opium directly affected the highly detailed visions of artist, which has been primarily attributed to the advent of photography. Key artists discussed are Henry Wallis, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Elizabeth Siddal, and James McNeill Whistler. Images of sleep and death form a particular focus of the study and the author uses both contemporary literature and newspaper reviews to reassess important paintings, including The Death of Chatterton (1856), Ophelia (1852), Beata Beatrix (1870), and The Little White Girl (1865)