The E-BNR aims to build a comprehensive & unique cross-artform guide to
the British neo-Romantic tradition,
from 1880 to the present day.
While the British Romantics of 1789-1824 have spawned a vast industry of
publishers, conferences & tourism, the later neo-Romantic traditions
remain largely neglected. The E-BNR is aimed at bringing this hidden
tradition to light.
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WHAT IS NEO-ROMANTICISM ?
Neo-Romantic artists have drawn their inspiration
from artists of the age of Romanticism or earlier.
Characteristic themes in their work include a
mystical approach to the British landscape...
ENTRY: Burne-Jones, Edward.
Edward Burne-Jones (b. 28 August 1833 – d. 17 June 1898) was an English artist,
closely associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and largely responsible for
bringing the Pre-Raphaelites into the mainstream of the British art world, while
at the same time executing some of the most exquisite and beautiful artwork of the time.
Burne-Jones was born in Birmingham, England, the son of a frame-maker at Bennetts Hill near the city centre.
His mother died within six days of his being born, and he was raised by his father and an
unsympathetic housekeeper. He attended Birmingham's King Edward VI grammar school, and
then studied theology at Exeter College, Oxford. At Oxford he became a friend of
William Morris as a consequence of a mutual interest in poetry,
and was influenced by John Ruskin. At this time he discovered
Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur which was to be so influential in his life.
He studied under Rossetti, but developed his own style influenced by his travels in
Italy with Ruskin and others. He had intended to become a church minister, but
under Morris's influence decided to become an artist and designer instead.
After Oxford, from which he did not take a degree, he became closely involved
in the rejuvenation of the tradition of stained glass art in England.
In 1856 Burne-Jones became engaged to Georgiana MacDonald (1840-1920), one of the MacDonald
sisters. She was training to be a painter, and was the sister of Burne-Jones's old school
friend. The couple married in 1860, after which she made her own work in woodcuts and
became a close friend of George Eliot. (Another MacDonald sister married the artist
Sir Edward Poynter, a further sister married the ironmaster Alfred Baldwin and was
the mother of the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, and yet another sister was the
mother of Rudyard Kipling. Kipling and Baldwin were thus Burne-Jones's nephews).
In 1867 Burne-Jones and his wife settled in Fulham, London. William Morris later fell in
love with Georgiana, but she rejected him. For much of the 1870s Burne-Jones did not
exhibit, following a spate of bitterly hostile attacks in the press, and an affair
with his unstable Greek model Maria Zambaco which ended with her trying to commit suicide in public.
But, in 1877, he was persuaded to show eight oil paintings at the Grosvenor Gallery
(a new rival to the Royal Academy show). These included The Beguiling of Merlin.
The timing was right, and he was taken up as a herald and star of the new Aesthetic Movement.
As well as painting, he also worked in a variety of crafts; including designing ceramic
tiles, jewellery, tapestries, book illustration (the Kelmscott Press's Chaucer in 1896), and stage costumes.
In 1881 he received an honorary degree from Oxford, and was made an Honorary Fellow in 1883.
In 1885 he became the President of the Birmingham Society of Artists. In 1894 he
In the last few years of his life, his popularity again waned.
He is buried in Rottingdean churchyard, near Brighton, a place he knew through
summer family holidays.
Long out-of-fashion in the art world, due to Modernist art and Abstract Expressionism,
it was not until the mid 1970s that his work began to be re-assessed and once again acclaimed.
Burne-Jones exerted a considerable influence on British painting, as detailed in the large
exhibition in 1989 at the Barbican Art Gallery, London. (In book form as:
John Christian, The Last Romantics, (1989)). Burne-Jones was also highly
influential among French and Scottish symbolist painters, from 1889. His work also inspired
poetry by Swinburne - Swinburne's 1886 Poems & Ballads is dedicated to Burne-Jones.
His troubled son Philip (1861–1926) became a successful portrait painter. His
adored daughter Margaret (1866-1953) married John William Mackail (1850–1945) -
friend and biographer of William Morris, and Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1911–1916.
Burne-Jones' studio assistant, Charles Fairfax Murray, went on to a successful
art career as a painter in his own right. He later became an important collector
and respected art dealer. Between 1903 and 1907 he sold a great many works
by Burne-Jones and the Pre-Raphaelites to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery,
at far below their market worth. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery now has
the largest collection of works by Burne-Jones in the world, including
the massive watercolour Star of Bethlehem, commissioned for the Gallery in
1897. The paintings were a strong influence on the young J.R.R. Tolkien, then growing up in Birmingham.