17th June 1898. Sentiment in Art.
Disengaged from the world by basing his art on myth, legend and the Bible, not surprisingly for someone born in 1833 wishing to escape from the growing industrialisation of Britain, by the time Sir Edward Burne-Jones (Bt) died Today in 1898, he had earned a place in the Pantheon of 19thc painters.
An influential later member of the Pre-Raphaelites, Aesthetic and Arts and Crafts Movement, he was par-excellence a painter of the imagination, of dreamy maidens and sleeping beauties.
Having internalised the Victorian ethos of hard work and moral purpose, his work reflected the narrative of literature especially of The Middle Ages, of Mallory and the Legends of King Arthur, causing Henry James to remark, ‘it wasn’t painting but literature’.
Burne-Jones became closely associated with the decorative art and crafts movements after meeting William Morris at Oxford, the founder of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co.
After encountering the works of fellow Pre-Raphaelites; Millais, Ford Madox Brown, Holman Hunt and Rosetti he decided on a career in art.
The multi-talented Burne-Jones was much involved in the rejuvenation of stained-glass, including work for Birmingham Cathedral, Trinity Church, Sloane Square, Chelsea, and in the Shires at the Church of St. Edward the Confessor, at Cheddleton, Staffordshire.
The glass for a window at Christ Church, Oxford of 1859 was 2 years before the foundation of the Morris Company, after the recommendation of Benjamin Woodward, architect of the Oxford Museum of Natural History and friend of John Ruskin and the Pre-Rapaelites.
The picture evokes the spirit of medieval glass with its crammed style and vibrant colour, but also reflects the artist’s well-known sense of humour: notice the WC in the background.
By the the 1860.s Burne-Jones was developing his own style and in 1877 was persuaded to show eight oil paintings at the Grosvenor Gallery, a new rival to the Royal Academy.
One was the Beguiling of Merlin (1872-77), from the Arthurian legend of the infatuation of Merlin with the Lady of the Lake, Nimue.
One can look at the art of Burne-Jones and others of the 19thc, making of it what one will, and to some might seem sentimental to modern eyes, but it can hardly fail to tug at some cord in the human imagination.
Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, Merseyside.
Photo of Christ Church by Alkoliasnikoff. Collective Commons Attribution.
The Last Pre-Raphaelite. Fiona MacCarthy. 12.9.2011.
Red List/Pic of Annunciation.
Wikiart/Pic of Psyche.