Edward Coley Burne



Burne-Jones, Sir Edward Coley, professional name of EDWARD COLEY JONES (1833-1898), English painter, designer, and illustrator, born in Birmingham and educated at the University of Oxford. Trained by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Burne-Jones shared the Pre-Raphaelites\' concern with restoring to art what they considered the purity of form, stylization, and high moral tone of medieval painting and design. His paintings, inspired by medieval, classical, and biblical themes, are noted for their sentimentality and dreamlike romanticized style; they are generally considered among the finest works of the Pre-Raphaelite school. They include King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid (1884, Tate Gallery, London).


Burne-Jones was also prominent in the revival of medieval applied arts led by his Oxford friend the poet and artist William Morris. For Morris\'s firm he designed stained-glass windows, mosaics, and tapestries. His windows can be seen in many English churches, including Christ Church, Oxford, and Birmingham Cathedral. He also illustrated books of Morris\'s Kelmscott Press, notably Chaucer (1896). Burne-Jones was knighted in 1894


Although the public might have assumed that an artist who created large, solemn oils of such soulful Pre-Raphaelite maidens would have been a man of gloomy temperament, Burne-Jones was in fact playful and irreverent. He loved nothing better than to poke fun at himself, especially through the long series of self-caricatures that he shared with relatives and friends. These quite charming sketches usually depicted a shabby, stooping figure with owlish eyes, scruffy facial hair, and an expression of permanent surprise. Very different in spirit, however, was the portrait of him done by George Howard, an aristocrat whose enthusiasm for art drove him to become both a patron of the later Pre-Raphaelites and an accomplished amateur painter. Howard\'s version of Burne-Jones emphasized the artist\'s identity as a serious, no-nonsense professional, engrossed in his work and seemingly oblivious even to the presence of someone drawing him a few feet away.


Edward Coley Burne-Jones, born in Birmingham, showed little inclination towards art as a young man, and went up to Oxford to study theology. There he met William Morris, in the same year, at the same college, studying for the same degree, and they became lifelong friends.


Both of the young men gradually became less sure of their future as clergymen, and after seeing some work by Rossetti, Burne-Jones resolved to become a painter. However, he studied on for two years until he finally met Rossetti in person and asked his advice. Rossetti unhesitatingly advised him to drop the theology and become an artist. Burne-Jones became Rossetti\'s pupil in 1855, and Rossetti acted as his mentor in many ways, introducing him to influential friends and helping him gain commissions. One commission passed to Burne-Jones by Rossetti was for a stained-glass window, and he subsequently became a master in this art.


Burne-Jones\'s early paintings were very Rossetti-like, but he developed his own style after travelling to Italy in 1859 and 1862. On one trip to Italy, he was accompanied by John Ruskin. As well as paintings, he also produced decorative work for William Morris\'s company - book illustrations, tapestries, stained-glass windows and other crafts. His output was prodigious by any standards - over 1000 cartoons for stained glass alone. He completed some 200 oil paintings during his lifetime.


He became ARA in 1885, without even having put his name forward, only to resign some years later after exhibiting only one picture at the Academy. He had a habit of returning to unfinished pictures many years afterwards, so it is difficult to discern changes in his style after he moved out of Rossetti\'s shadow. He was a very good colourist, and also excelled at drapery, where he did not confine himself to any one style. Careful in composition and a superb draftsman, he was an all-rounder who, rarely for an English painter of the time, had a reputation in Continental Europe, his honours including Corresponding Member of the Institute of France. He was created a baronet in 1894.


Burne-Jones\'s favorite subjects were graceful girls, angels, gods and heroes, generally sad-looking, thoughtful or asleep. Grace and langour rather than fast action gives an unearthly remoteness to his paintings. Some of his many important pictures are The Garden of the Hesperides, Love Among the Ruins and The Golden Stairs at the Tate Gallery, King Cophetua and the Beggar