Edward Burne-Jones attained the pinnacle of Victorian style painting with his poetic style at the close of the 19th century. He drew inspiration from classical mythology and medieval literature and carved out his unique world of painting, emphasizing symbolism and an atmosphere of elegance and mystery. The current Burne-Jones exhibition at Tate Britain showcases some 150 pieces, including the spectacular Love Among the Ruins (fig. 1) and the Perseus and Sleeping Beauty, narrative cycles which are regarded as representative of the essence of Burne-Jones art. The works range in medium from oil painting, watercolor, drawing, stained glass and tapestry.
Burne-Jones had hoped to enter the clergy but decided to pursue painting after he met William Morris at Oxford University and traveled with him in 1855 to cathedrals in northern France. The following year, Burne-Jones left Oxford and apprenticed with Rosetti, known for establishing the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and studied Italian art under the guidance of art critic John Ruskin. His representative piece Wheel of Fortune (fig. 2) reflects the strong influence of Italian Renaissance art. The naked men lined up vertically on the right were inspired by Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel painting, and the folds of the clothes worn by the Goddess of Fortune who controls fate are finely carved, resembling the works of Botticelli.
A devout Christian, Burne-Jones also created works rooted in his deep faith. These include, for example, the large-scale triptych The Annunciation and The Adoration of the Magi created for the St Paul’s church in Brighton and the stained glass work The Good Shepherd. Burne-Jones also contributed to the revival of the tradition of stained glass in Britain.
“Edward Burne-Jones” at Tate Britain opens until 24 February 2019 (closed 24-26 December 2018).
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