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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-98)

( Originally Published 1955 )



British painter and decorator. A Romantic and a lifelong rebel, he was associated with the later-Pre-Raphaelite movement. In 1857 he worked with Rossetti in decorating the walls of the Oxford Union with illustrations from the Morte d'Arthur. Under the influence of Ruskin he drew flowers and foliage and copied Tintorettos. He became interested in Greek literature and pagan mythology and while in Italy was influenced by Botticelli, Mantegna and Signorelli, developing at the same time his knowledge of medieval and Renaissance literature. A meticulous craftsman, he made painstaking preparations for his paintings: studies, figurines, sketches, outlines of various kinds, and careful underpainting. In spite of this, the lack of technical knowledge made his and other Pre-Raphaelite paintings blacken and peel. He preferred to decorate homes. churches and furniture, design tapestries and stained-glass windows. After 1863 he was closely associated with William Morris in the latter's attempt to bring back the age of handicrafts. Yet Burne-Jones was also enraptured by the past from another point of view-the spiritual-and this he tried to express in his church windows, tapestries and illustrated books. In 1881, again in association with the William Morris group, he opened the Merton Abbey factory for the production of decorative works. During the 1890's the vogue for his literary subject pieces diminished as the new Whistlerian dictum of "Art for Art's sake" (see) came into favor. Burne-Jones's contribution is not in the highly detailed works for which lie is generally known but rather in those pictures which, showing the greatest sense of unreality, of existence on another plane. allow the lines to flow harmoniously and musically.



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