Edward Burne-Jones – The British Designer & Artist of Commercial Fame

Edward’s mom died six days after his birth and his housekeeper Ann Sampson mainly raised him. Burne-Jones started his education from 1844 with King Edward VI Grammar School, Birmingham, graduating to the Birmingham School of Art during 1848-52. Edward then studied theology at Exeter College, Oxford, where he also befriended enterprising English artist William Morris (1834-96).

All through their learning years, both the artists derived inspiration from the works of an English artist and the co-founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82). In 1856, Morris founded Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, for which he roped in Rossetti as a contributor. Through this interface, Morris & Burne-Jones came quite close to Rossetti and all inspired, decided to pursue artistry as career. In 1860, Burne-Jones married the British artist Georgiana “Georgie” MacDonald (1840-1920), one of his school friends’ sister. The couple had two sons and one daughter.

Edward had close association with the later stages of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement (started 1848). Immense imagination and elaboration marked Jones’ early artistic career, which includes several pen and ink drawings on vellum such as ‘Waxen Image’ (1856). His first oil also dates back to 1856. In 1857, he created stained glass work of a series of cartoons, for Bradfield College. In 1858, Edward illustrated a cabinet with the Prioress’s Tale from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In 1857, along with Morris and others, Edward worked for Rossetti’s Oxford Union fresco painting project. This assignment proved a disaster as the whole group was untrained in the style and the work started coming off during production itself. In 1859, Edward traveled to Italy and came back inspired and rejuvenated.

His artistic life took upswing when he became a founding partner in Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Company (1861-75). Here, he worked closely with William Morris (1834-96) on a broad spectrum of Decorative Arts mediums and styles. Through his stint at the company, Burne-Jones was instrumental in reviving Stained Glass Art in England. Some of his works in the field can be seen at Birmingham Cathedral and St Martin’s Church in Brampton, Cumbria. Edward extended his artistry to ceramics tiles, jewelry, tapestries, mosaics, and book illustrations too.

In 1864, Edward was elected as an associate of the Society of Painters in Water Colors. He displayed here his very competent work ‘The Merciful Knight’ (1863) that established him as an artist. Until 1870, he kept displaying his watercolor works at the same gallery. Following a controversy over his painting ‘Phyillis and Demophoon’ (1870), he resigned from the membership.

During 1870-77, the artist exhibited only a couple of times. During this phase, he produced many famous paintings, including ‘Chant d’amour’ (1868-73), ‘The Days of Creation’ (1870-76), ‘Briar Rose’ series (1871-73), ‘The Beguiling of Merlin’ (1872-77), ‘Laus Veneris’ (1873-75), ‘Pan and Psyche’ (1874), ‘the Pygmalion series’ (1875-78), the ‘Mirror of Venus’ (1875), and ‘the Golden Stairs’ (1876-80). In 1877, Edward displayed three of these paintings at the Grosvenor Gallery, London. The exhibition proved a turning point for the artist’s career and he was declared the frontrunner of the European Aesthetic Movement of the nineteenth century. Until 1884, he kept exhibiting at the gallery, wowing the viewers each time.

Edward Burne-Jones was elected as an associate of the Royal Academy, London, in 1885. In 1887, he displayed for the first and the last time at the Academy. The painting on the show was ‘The Depths of Sea’ (1887). The work represented a mermaid with a youth whom she fell in love with. In 1893, the artist resigned from the Academy. In 1896, he completed his most famous woodcut design ‘Chaucer’ for Morris’ Kelmscott Press (1891-98), London. Morris’ death in 1896, shocked Edward, and his health started declining. The artist eventually died on June 17, 1898.

Annette Labedzki received her BFA at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver, B.C. Canada. She has more than 25 years experience. She is the founder and developer of an online art gallery featuring original art from all over the world. Please visit the website at http://www.Labedzki-Art.com. It is a great site for art collectors to buy original art. Artists can join for free and their image upload is unlimited.


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