The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

Origins and background

Pre-RaphaelitesIn 1848, Rossetti's brothers, Dante Gabriel and William Michael, along with James Collinson, John Everett Millais, Frederic George Stephens, Thomas Woolner and William Holman Hunt, founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. They sought to model their work on the style of art and poetry that was popular before the time of the Italian High Renaissance painter Raphael (1483-1520), because they believed that the style of painting that succeeded him was too artificial and formulaic.

By emphasising a concern with representing nature truthfully and incorporating tiny details into their paintings, the Pre-Raphaelites sought to challenge the traditional methods of producing art, which were expected by the Royal Academy of Arts.

Often, the Pre-Raphaelites used their art to convey particular meanings which they anticipated would be ‘read' by observers who carefully noted the details of each picture. To this end, they employed symbolic and allegorical imagery. For instance, in Dante Gabriel's painting, ‘Girlhood of Mary, Virgin', he includes lilies to represent her purity and innocence. He also wrote a set of sonnets to accompany the painting, in which he highlights ‘the angel watered lily' that the painting foregrounds.

The Germ

In 1850, the Pre-Raphaelites established a periodical through which to share their poetic, artistic and imaginative ideas. Entitled The Germ, the periodical only lasted for four issues. Although their ideas flourished and their influence eventually surpassed their expectations, the group did not stay together for long. Rossetti wrote several poems that were included in The Germ. These include: Dream Land, An End, A Pause of Thought, Song, A Testimony, Repining and Sweet Death. She later included most of these poems in her first volume of verse, Goblin Market and Other Poems, in 1862.

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