While the camera has made some notable advancements in the past 150 years, the disheveled look of bohemians has remained constant: unkempt hair, torn clothing and lips that rarely smile. But Kate Moss wasn’t first — the Pre-Raphaelites were.
This small group of British beats formed their brotherhood in 1848, naming themselves to contrast with Raphael’s idealized vision of subjects — not all Renaissance women had ethereal faces and tiny noses. Instead, these romantics turned toward natural splendor, like trees and the people who loved them. They were the Dove Campaign for Natural Beauty of the 19th century.
The National Gallery’s “The Pre-Raphaelite Lens: British Photography and Painting, 1848—1875” exhibit shows that painters such as John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti influenced early photographers like Lewis Carroll and Julia Margaret Cameron. (Her “Mariana, ‘She said I am aweary aweary I would that I were dead'” appears above.)
But where some see art, we see hair. And not the kind at the Kennedy Center. We mean actual hair. The stylists and Annie Leibovitzes of the 1850s loved pairing pastoral settings with meters upon meters of matted and frizzed manes (and beards, for those of the male persuasion).
Get the Pre-Raphaelite look by following these simple instructions.
1. No longer just the tool of choice for sorority girls and Southern beauty queens, hot rollers infuse interpretations of life into any dull gob of dyed-to-a-crunch hair. Pre-Raphaelite models possibly achieved this by trudging through mud and bathing weekly; we recommend heat-infused cylinders about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. (At left, John Robert Parsons’ “Jane Morris, 1865.”)
2. After rolling your hair, spray it generously with White Rain (a cheap aerosol brand popular among country music stars). To emulate the art that emulates nature, hair should feel like it’s been gnawed on by a polo pony for at least two decades.
3. The hair should then be played with by your forbidden Huguenot lover for exactly one hour.
4. Adorn with butterflies and leaves. That’s right, Ophelia. The dirtier the better.
5. Head to your nearest fashion blog (or to U Street) and brood. Remember that you are beautiful and artistic. You’re wearing a turn-of-the-century hamper as a makeshift skirt. Your soul is communing with nature. The look is complete!
Note to reader: Please visit the National Gallery before experimenting with this soon-to-be on-trend style.
Julia Margaret Cameron photo courtesy The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California; John Robert Parsons photo courtesy Princeton University Library.