Edward Burne-Jones (1833 - 1898)

One of the outstanding artists of the nineteenth century, he was the main designer of figure cartoons for Morris and Co., but his chief work was as a painter.

Born in Birmingham, the son of a frame-maker, he was educated at King Edward's School there, and then at Exeter College, Oxford. Imbued with Romanticism and the Mediaeval world, he learned painting chiefly from Rossetti, having no orthodox training. He was soon designing stained glass for Powell of Whitefriars and Lavers and Berraud. His later designs were all for 'The Firm'.

The portrait of Burne-Jones (left) is by George Howard, the 9th Earl of Carlisle.

Burne-Jones portrait drawn by George Howard, 9th Earl of Carlisle

He visited Italy and was influenced by Mantegna and Michelangelo. He married Georgiana MacDonald in 1860. The daughter of a methodist minister, her sisters were the mothers of Stanley Baldwin and Rudyard Kipling. An early idea of living with the Morris family in a kind of commune was given up, and he settled in London at the Grange, Fulham. Later he took a country house at Rottingdean, Sussex.

He gradually attained great popularity and a very distinctive style and exhibited regularly at the Grosvenor Gallery. Elected an A.R.A. he soon resigned. In 1894 he was made a baronet. Paintings include The Beguiling of Merlin, King Corphetua and the Beggar Maid, The Depths of the Sea, The Briar Rose, and Laus Veneris, now at the Laing Gallery at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. His designs include illustrations for Morris's Kelmscott Press, including the Chaucer, also he designed needlework and tiles for the Firm. His last window is at Hawarden, in honour of Gladstone, completed just before the death of both men.

Martin Harrison and Bill Waters brought out a sumptuously illustrated monograph and Penelope Fitzgerald a biography in the seventies.


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