British, 1833-1898


"The son of Edward Richard Jones and Elisabeth Coley, Edward Burne-Jones began to prepare for a career in the church and enrolled as a theology student at Exeter College, Oxford where a fellow pupil was William Morris. However, his sight of a drawing by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, an illustration for William Allingham's Elfin Mere, was decisive in his change of direction. He was 22 when, in 1855, he went to London to show his first drawings to Rossetti whose work had so deeply moved him. Rossetti encouraged Burne-Jones and offered to take him as a part-time pupil. Together with William Morris, Burne-Jones left university without a thought for his abandoned degree and after a year studying with the young Rossetti sought to earn a living by selling pen drawings and watercolours at the same time as continuing to take lessons from Rossetti. In 1859, he left for Italy. Even before this journey, it is interesting to note the Italian inspiration apparent in a wall painting that he executed in Oxford in the autumn of 1858 in cooperation with Rossetti and other young painters. Once in Italy, it was above all the masters of the early Florentine Renaissance, and particularly Botticelli, who most impressed Burne-Jones. He also visited Siena, Pisa, Parma and Venice. Shortly after his return to England, in 1860, he was married in Manchester to Georgina MacDonald. In 1862, with Ruskin, he made a second trip to Italy. His career came to a sudden end in 1898 when he died of influenza.

In 1863, Edward Burne-Jones was admitted to the Society of Painters in Watercolours as an associate member and it was chiefly with this association that he was to exhibit his works. The year 1877 marked the moment when his success was established. The opening of the Grosvenor Gallery provided him with the opportunity to present several works. Although they did not meet with unanimous approval, the event meant that Burne-Jones came to the attention of the public. His success at the 1878 Exposition Universelle in Paris, on the other hand, was notable. The English painters, and not least Burne-Jones, who featured at the Exposition, caused a sensation. Of these artists, it was only Burne-Jones and Lord Leighton who were invited by the French government to take part in an exhibition of contemporary art in 1882. Two important collections of paintings, the Ellis collection and the William Graham collection, both of which included works by Burne-Jones, were sold in June 1885 and 1886. Burne-Jones' paintings fetched very high prices thus confirming the artist's reputation in the eyes of the public and of collectors. He was made an associate member of the Royal academy in 1885 while his friends in the Society of Painters in Watercolours finally and unanimously elected him as a full member of their association. His contribution to the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris earned him a position in the Légion d'Honneur. In 1890, an exhibition of a series of his works at Agnews Gallery was a great success. After his participation in the Antwerp Exposition of 1897, he was made a baronet by Queen Victoria.

Steeped in tales from Celtic ballads and the poems of 'Ossian' (the bard created by Macpherson), an admirer of Mantegna and Botticelli, poised between reality and a dream-world of his own invention, Burne-Jones, along with William Morris, belongs to the second generation of Pre-Raphaelite artists that followed Rossetti and Ruskin. Like them, Burne-Jones rejected all those pictorial conventions adopted, according to them, after the period of the early Renaissance and particularly from the time of Raphael. He returned many times to his canvases, sometimes after a period of several years, seeking always to emulate the minute perfection of the early Italian painters. His work is essentially religious in inspiration, mystical even when the subjects are taken from Greek mythology. Although apparently very different, Burne-Jones has much in common with Gustave Moreau. Both men represent aspects of the symbolist tendency of the late 19th century although far removed from the Nabis, Gauguin, Puvis de Chavannes, Hodler or Redon. Burne-Jones also showed his skills as a decorative artist, producing several themed series of pictures and, in collaboration with William Morris, designs for stained glass, tapestries and jewellery. There is no doubt that the work they did together was influential in the development of the 'Modern Style' in architecture and furniture design" (Benezit, Dictionary of Artists, Gründ, 2006).

Museum Collections:
Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Brooklyn Museum, NY
Dallas Museum of Art, TX
Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
National Gallery, London,
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Philadelphia Art Museum, PA
Tate Gallery, London

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STUDIO OF SIR EDWARD COLEY BURNE-JONES    Head of a Sleeping Courtier   Watercolor on tan paper heightened with white 12 x 11½ inches (30.5 x 29.7 cm)  SOLD

Head of a Sleeping Courtier
Watercolor on tan paper heightened with white
12 x 11½ inches (30.5 x 29.7 cm)