The Germ; The Four Number Pre-Raphaelite Magazine

5th February 2018

If you’re read about the Pre-Raphaelite movement, you’ll have heard of The Germ. A magazine established in 1850 at the beginning of he movement, it was set up by founding members Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and William Michal Rossetti who was known as the editor and historian of the movement.

The aim of the magazine was to circulate the creative work and ideas of the Brotherhood and it would contain poetry, literature and art – all important forms of expression and art for the members. At the end of each issue, their mission was printed, so it’s better to use their words here:

“With a view to obtain the thoughts of Artists, upon Nature as evolved in Art […] this Periodical has been established. Thus, then, it is not open to the conflicting opinions of all who handle the brush and palette, nor is it restricted to actual practitioners; but is intended to enunciate the principles of those who, in the true spirit of Art, enforce a rigid adherence to the simplicity of Nature either in Art or Poetry […].”

Though, as we know, the Pre-Raphaelite movement continued to develop for years after, The Germ closed down after four numbers; January, February, March and April 1850. The name even changed half way through to encourage more readers, changing to; Art and Poetry: Being Thoughts towards Nature Conducted Principally by Artists. D.G. Rossetti pushed all his enthusiasm into the magazine but it didn’t work out.

The name ‘The Germ’ came from the importance of nature to the movement and also from the phrase ‘the germ of an idea’ – it was supposed to be a seed from which future creative ideas would grow and flourish.

In a collaborative works, it printed contributions of works on art and literature as well as book reviews. Those contributors even included associates of the Brotherhood such as Ford Madox Brown. The issues each began with an original illustration. In one issue where Woolner’s poem ‘My Beautiful Lady’ was accompanied with a drawing from William Holman Hunt. It was Madox Brown who created a two page illustration of King Lear and his daughters for issue number three – this accompanied his article of the mechanics of a history painting.


Photo: The Germ: Thoughts Towards Nature In Poetry, Literature, and Art (2 Volumes). Art and Poetry: Being Thoughts Towards Nature Conducted Principally by Artists (2 Volumes). William Michael Rossetti.