The Purpose and Tendency of Early Italian Art

George Frederick Stephens

General Description

Date: 1849
Genre: critical essay


◦ Fredeman 147-148


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the Germ text.

Scholarly Commentary


According to WMR, this essay by Stephens was originally titled “The Revival of the Feeling in Early Art” when it was read to him and DGR in December 1849 (see Fredeman, The P.R.B. Journal, 31). The essay is a good statement of Pre-Raphaelite ideas about trecento and quattrocento Italian art, and in particular about DGR's views (see especially the second paragraph). Moving from a Ruskinian statement about “Nature” in landscape painting, Stephens proposes to extend that line of art criticism to “historical painting”. Stephens's focus recalls the thinking of DGR, who was relatively uninterested in landscape painting. Also, his argument about the decline of European art from the examples set in the early Italian Renaissance is distinctly Pre-Raphaelite, just as his plea for a return to Nature is inspired by Ruskin's work.

Stephens (1828-1907) was art editor for the Athenaeum for forty years. In that position he was a powerful force for promoting the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, and of DGR in particular. Stephens regularly submitted his copy to DGR before having it published, so that his commentaries have a quasi-authorized status.

Printing History

It was printed in The Germ no. 2, pages 58-64.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: stephens001.raw.xml