What this exhibition shows is that despite the sentimental pictures that came to be associated with the term PRB — all those Arthurian romances and "dreams of fair women" — it was a movement born of a fire in the belly and the conviction that art was not an escape from society but an integral part of it.
With its big autumn show the Royal Academy has set itself a difficult task. Bronze is a survey of this ancient and universal material and brings together 150 sculptures that date from 3,700 BC to 2012. Sculpture is not always a crowd-pleaser, Anish Kapoor's 2009 RA exhibition notwithstanding, and the gallery is taking a risk with this recherché medium. Where it hopes to appeal is in both the geographical breadth of its exhibits and their quality.
Benin bronzes from Nigeria stand alongside pieces from second-millennium BC China, sixth-century India, Renaissance Italy and 1960s America. The loans are remarkable: Denmark's greatest national treasure, a horse-drawn "Chariot of the Sun" from the 14th century BC, has been loaned, as has the most celebrated piece of all Etruscan art, the 400 BC "Chimera of Arezzo". Unlike most other art forms bronzes of the highest quality are still being discovered, including the terrifyingly lifelike late Hellenistic head of King Seuthes III which was found in a Thracian tomb near Sofia in 2004 and the Roman Crosby Garrett cavalry helmet unearthed near Carlisle in 2010. Lost paintings of comparable quality turn up just once in the bluest of moons.
This is a brave and welcome show full of beautiful objects that demonstrate just why this simple copper alloy has long been held as a precious metal.