Burne-Jones, Edward

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Edward Burne-Jones

Birmingham, 1833

London, 1898


Edward Burne-Jones was born in the industrial city of Birmingham. He attended King Edward’s School, alternating this education with night drawing classes at the Government School of Design. Thanks to his artistic skills and aptitude for study, he quickly stood out among the other students, though his melancholic personality led him to seek refuge in literature and religion. So much so that, at age twenty, he entered Exeter College at University of Oxford to study theology. There he met with the poet William Morris, with whom he shared a religious zeal. They developed a strong friendship that lasted all of their lives.

After a set of circumstances and the discovery of the work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelites, both friends decided to quit their religious studies and move to London. In the city, Jones met his master, Rossetti, the force behind the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, as well as John Ruskin. During those years, he began a relationship with Georgiana Macdonald, a painting student, who he married in 1860. They had two children.

Between 1859 and 1873, he traveled several times to Italy to study and copy works of the great Renaissance masters. He analyzed with devotion the compositions of Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Andrea Mantegna, Leonardo da Vinci and Luca Signorelli, synthesizing their styles and translating them into a language of his own that took refuge in classical, Christian and Celtic legends.

In London, he was a founding member of Morris Marshall, Faulkner & Co. and successfully participated in the International Exhibition, showing painted furniture and stained glass. He then met María Zambaco, with whom he had an affair that culminated in a spectacular scandal.

In 1870, he had a less successful exhibition at the Old Water-Colour Society. In 1877, and for the next ten years, he participated in Grosvenor Gallery’s yearly Salon. His achievements accumulated at a steady pace. Besides painting, he was actively involved in the Arts and Crafts movement. He explored the possibilities of the crafts and interior design, creating ceramic tiles, jewelry, tapestries, carpets, wallpaper, furniture, illustrated books and clothes for the theater.

During the last of his working years, he received many titles and honorary mentions such as Oxford’s honorary diploma, in 1881: admittance in the Royal Academy, in 1890; and was knighted in 1894.

He died in June 1898, immersed in his last work, the The Passing of Venus tapestry.

Isabel Menéndez