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Desperate Romantics 

Period drama set in London about the rise of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

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Series cast summary:
Samuel Barnett ...  John Millais 6 episodes, 2009
Sam Crane ...  Fred Walters 6 episodes, 2009
Josie Farmiloe Josie Farmiloe ...  Charlotte Siddal 6 episodes, 2009
Tom Hollander ...  John Ruskin 6 episodes, 2009
Jennie Jacques ...  Annie Miller 6 episodes, 2009
Amy Manson ...  Lizzie Siddal 6 episodes, 2009
Rafe Spall ...  William Holman Hunt 6 episodes, 2009
Aidan Turner ...  Dante Gabriel Rossetti 6 episodes, 2009
Mark Heap ...  Charles Dickens 5 episodes, 2009
Polly Kemp Polly Kemp ...  Mrs. Siddal 5 episodes, 2009
Ian Puleston-Davies ...  Mr. Siddal 5 episodes, 2009
Zoë Tapper ...  Effie Ruskin / ... 5 episodes, 2009
Georgie Glen ...  Ruskin's Mother / ... 4 episodes, 2009
Phil Davis ...  Mr. Stone 3 episodes, 2009
Mark Benton ...  Mr.Chadwick 2 episodes, 2009
Rebecca Davies Rebecca Davies ...  Fanny Cornforth 2 episodes, 2009
Poppy Lee Friar ...  Rose La Touche 2 episodes, 2009
Maimie McCoy ...  Margaret 2 episodes, 2009
Dyfrig Morris Dyfrig Morris ...  William Morris 2 episodes, 2009
Peter Sandys-Clarke ...  Edward Burne-Jones 2 episodes, 2009
Natalie Thomas Natalie Thomas ...  Jane Burden 2 episodes, 2009
Christian Wolf-La'Moy ...  Drinker at Inn / ... 2 episodes, 2009


Period drama set in London about the rise of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

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Release Date:

2009 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Desperate Romantics See more »


Box Office


£4,000,000 (estimated)
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Did You Know?


Aidan Turner and Phil Davis went on to appear alongside each other in Poldark (2015). See more »


Featured in The Big Fat Quiz of the Year (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

Relationships full of passion, anger and urgency
30 January 2019 | by kmorrow-56438See all my reviews

Desperate Romantics is a period drama set in 19th century London. It tells the story of the lives and loves of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. This six episode series is inspired by the non-fiction book "Desperate Romantics: The Private Lives of the Pre-Raphaelites" by Franny Moyle.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in 1848 and consisted of a group of English painters, poets and critics. They defined themselves as a reform movement whose purpose was to return to creating art with abundant detail, intense colors and complex compositions. Although the series is inspired by the non-fiction book, this is not a historically accurate account of the artists lives.

The story starts with the brotherhood as hopeful unknown fringe artists and follows them as they become well respected and well compensated artists in demand. While there is little interjected on the actual painting done by the artists, the series main focus is on the personal relationships of the brotherhood. This is drama that does not take itself too seriously. Rather than linger on the tragedies it portrays, it keeps a steady current of passion, enthusiasm and ambition throughout each episode. The members of the brotherhood will stop at nothing to succeed in attaining their desires. They betray each other in small and large ways over and over again, but through it all, they cling to their dysfunctional friendships.

The exuberance of the young hopeful artists on a mission to change the world of art is contagious. As a viewer, I got caught up in the excitement of being on the verge of a revolution. The obvious rebel bad boys of their time, the brotherhood refuse to conduct themselves in a manner fitting polite society. Their personalities are volatile and unpredictable, and the artists are often prone to loud outbursts when they don't get their way. All this makes for interesting television. Relationships are full of passion, anger and urgency. The dialogue is clever. The series moves along at a quick pace and the musical score is a pithy composition that keeps the overall mood light.

Even though the focus is on the male artists, the lead female characters are not one-dimensional. They are strong women with their own ambitions. They stand their ground and refuse to be treated as subservient docile creatures used only for their beauty and companionship.

I thoroughly enjoyed this series. It made living like a starving artist look like a really good time and because of the lasting success of the brotherhood, it also seems like a noble pursuit.

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