• gerard van weyenbergh

Edward Burne-Jones, his art, + video

In short

One of the masters of Pre-Raphaelite alongside Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The British painter Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898), like the other members of this movement, yearned for a return to Renaissance art, its purity and its symbolism. If the aesthetic concern of these painters is obvious, moral design is also at the heart of their art. In British society from the second half of the XIX th century, marked by a spectacular industrial development and Puritanism, Burne-Jones and her friends advocate a return to honesty, nobility and spirituality. The work of this idealist mysticism profoundly influenced the French Symbolists at the end of the XIX th century.

He said

"What I mean by painting is a beautiful romantic dream full of what has never been and never will be, illuminated by a light that has never shone, in a country that no one can or define. nor to remember, but only to desire. "

His life

Raised by his father, Edward Burne-Jones spent his childhood and adolescence in Birmingham. Very young, he was noticed for his talents as a designer. In a college in Oxford where he conducted brilliant studies, the young man met William Morris, the future great name of the Arts & Crafts movement. At the heart of this Gothic environment, both are passionate about the Middle Ages and literature.

In 1856, Burne-Jones moved to London and met Dante Gabriel Rossetti. They worked together, and Burne-Jones joined the circle of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, founded in 1848. Four years later, he married and made a living by making stained glass. He then became the collaborator of his friend William Morris, who opened his firm specializing in decorative arts.

He discovered Italy alongside his contemporary John Ruskin, influential theorist and art critic. The primitives particularly caught the attention of Burne-Jones, and the artist gradually forged his own style. He has a special affection for Botticelli, but he is also fascinated by myths, notably the legend of King Arthur, as well as biblical themes. Burne-Jones cannot stand a vacuum, his paintings proliferate with ornamental details. Alternately angelic or fatal, often of literary inspiration, women occupy a special place in the works of the Pre-Raphaelites.

If Burne-Jones acquired a certain fame in France at the end of the 1870s (where he was appreciated by Gustave Moreau and Puvis de Chavannes), he nevertheless suffered the wrath of criticism in England. The artist is considered strange, mystical and a follower of medievalism. It was not until the very end of his career that he finally obtained official and academic recognition in his own country.

His key works

Phyllis and Demophon , 1870

In 1870, this watercolor caused a scandal in the heart of Victorian society, very puritanical. It represents a legendary embracing couple, struggling with their amorous and romantic passion. To design Phyllis' veiled nudity, Burne-Jones called on a model with whom he had a tumultuous affair. During its exhibition, the work, considered too daring, had to be withdrawn, and this, although the male body clearly refers to the work of Michelangelo.

The Wheel of Fortune , 1875–1883

This famous work bears witness to Burne-Jones' two main sources of inspiration: classical myths (as appreciated by Renaissance artists, who revisited antiquity) and medieval legends. The wheel, in this work, is threatening and embodies the ineluctable march of fate. The reduced palette reinforces the impression of confinement of the characters in a very dense composition. In the treatment of male nudes, Burne-Jones pays homage to Michelangelo's mannerism in the grand decor of the Sistine Chapel.

The Adoration of the Magi , 1904

Burne-Jones made his contribution to the Arts & Crafts movement, embodied by William Morris. In 1886, he received an order for a tapestry for Exeter College in Oxford and entrusted the production of the cardboard to his friend. On this biblical theme, Burne-Jones gives free rein to his medieval and Renaissance inspiration. Three colors dominate the composition: blue, red and green. By its luxuriance, the flowerbed can evoke certain paintings by Botticelli such as the medieval tapestry known as the mille-fleurs. © Beaux Arts Magazine 40 Minutes video about Burne-Jones art