I know Pre-Raphaelite and Impressionist are art terms, but I don't know art! I read "Pre-Raphaelite" but don't understand why Neuberger borrowed it to judging. How Pre-Raphaelite relate with judges who read documents in preparation?

Neuberger reveals lobbying tactics among top judges

He said judges broadly fell into two camps: those who read everything, whom he dubbed “Pre-Raphaelites”, and those who “read very little” – including himself – whom he labelled “Judicial Impressionists”. See paragraph 10 of Neuberger's speech in 2014 in New South Wales.

  1. Logically, I should begin with pre-hearing activity. As a first instance, or trial, judge, I read the papers in advance, at least one had the opportunity to do so. When it comes to such reading ahead, Judges are, in my experience, divided into Pre-Raphaelites and Impressionists. Judicial Pre-Raphaelites read everything, whereas Judicial Impressionists read very little – often just skimming the skeleton arguments. Pre-Raphaelites have the advantage of being better prepared and ready to ask the relevant questions. But they risk wasting much time as, once the case gets going, most of the documentation turns out to be irrelevant, and some of the points raised in writing are often dropped. Also, there is a concomitant risk of not seeing the wood for the trees, and of having a preconceived idea of where the argument should go. Impressionists run the risk of not really being on top of things until after the hearing, so that they do not have the same degree of grip over the hearing, and intelligent questions sometimes only rise into the consciousness when it’s too late to raise them. I must nonetheless confess to being an Impressionist.

I quote websites on Pre-Raphaelite.

Who are the Pre-Raphaelites? – Who Are They? | Tate Kids

The Pre-Raphaelites were a group of artists in the Victorian era. They believed art should be as similar to the real world as possible. Think of it like this. If you painted a park, the park you’ve painted should show the park as you see it. That means you can’t paint the grass blue, when you know it’s green.

Back then most people thought the best painter of all time was the Italian painter Raphael. You might have seen his paintings in famous places like the Vatican City in Rome. Raphael was painting nearly 400 years before the Pre-Raphaelites. He liked creating epic religious paintings of Jesus’s life. Raphael imagined these scenes to be very beautiful. The Pre-Raphaelites didn’t like this and wanted to paint what they knew. This is how they got their name. It literally means before Raphael.

The Pre-Raphaelites - The British Library

The Pre-Raphaelites were a loose and baggy collective of Victorian poets, painters, illustrators and designers whose tenure lasted from 1848 to roughly the turn of the century. Drawing inspiration from visual art and literature, their work privileged atmosphere and mood over narrative, focusing on medieval subjects, artistic introspection, female beauty, sexual yearning and altered states of consciousness. In defiant opposition to the utilitarian ethos that formed the dominant ideology of the mid-century, the Pre-Raphaelites helped to popularise the notion of ‘art for art’s sake’. Generally devoid of the political edge that characterised much Victorian art and literature, Pre-Raphaelite work nevertheless incorporated elements of 19th-century realism in its attention to detail and in its close observation of the natural world.

Who Were the Pre-Raphaelites? Learn About the Brotherhood of Artists

Who were the Pre-Raphaelites?

The Pre-Raphaelites were a group of painters and poets living and working in Victorian England. Established by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1848, the group was founded to counter ideals popularized during the High Renaissance. Specifically, Hunt, Millais, and Rossetti believed that art was in its golden age pre-Raphael—a painter often praised for his idealized approach to his subject matter—and sought to bring naturalism and realistic detail back to painting.

In order to achieve this goal, these three artists—as well as painters James Collinson and Frederic George Stephens, sculptor Thomas Woolner, and secretary William Michael Rossetti—banded together to create a secret brotherhood. Inspired by age-old art and supported by contemporary critic John Ruskin, the Pre-Raphaelites sought to “go back to nature” and reinvigorate Europe’s 19th-century art scene.

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    @Michael Harvey That's an answer, isn't it?
    – Conrado
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 8:13
  • @MichaelHarvey — But the injunction in the comment box is unequivocal: use comments to ask for clarification or suggest improvements, not to answer questions. If the question is not worth answering or off-topic don’t answer it. If you think it worth answering and have an answer, be prepared to provide it as a proper answer. That is how SE was conceived — not as a dialogue between individuals.
    – David
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 10:56
  • Since the context appears to be legal, couldn't this be a reference to the angel Raphael? britannica.com/topic/Raphael-archangel. Perhaps the answer is biblical.
    – senortim
    Commented Jul 17, 2020 at 3:52
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    Doesn't the quote itself already contain the answer? "Judges are, in my experience, divided into Pre-Raphaelites and Impressionists. Judicial Pre-Raphaelites read everything, whereas Judicial Impressionists read very little." - I know little about art, but from context clearly pre-Raphaelites are not impressionists, therefore I would assume their paintings were true-to-life and detailed because that feels like the opposite of impressionist paintings. Hence judges in the metaphorical pre-Raphaelite category are also detail oriented and read everything associated with the case.
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 4:03

1 Answer 1


Anyone who has seen a painting by Raphael will know they have seen a view of the world that is grand and fine but very much better than the truth of the day. They are fabulous pictures but are a great deal nicer than any reality.

Naturally when Neuberger speaks of the Pre-Raphaelite he means those who look at the world as the Pre-Raphaelite did, meaning all together with its warts and blemishes including truths, both pretty and ugly. These people preferred their simple realism to the special effects version of reality painted up by Raphael.

As for considering a legal case Neuberger felt Pre-Raphaelites would do so by a complete and thorough reading of a case without sparing detail or turning away from any particulars, indelicate or otherwise. Preferring realism by way of thoroughness an completeness.

As he stated this was too much for his tastes. He preferred the Impressionist's approach who only considered the case in a shallow manner, sometimes by the lightest skimming. Taking in just enough of the matter before the reality becomes to tedious and relying on picking up the argument later during the discussion.

I don't have much of a stomach for the law but if I needed a lawyer I would hope it is a strong stomach for realism that I am hiring.

  • I'm very grateful but still cannot understand why no one else came up with any answer. Thank You!
    – Elliot
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 3:21
  • I think you're correct that it's about detail but it's contrasting the precise, detailed art of the 19th-century Pre-Raphaelite Movement with the looser Impressionists who though working at the same time had a very different style.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 9:30

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