Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones was a British artist and designer closely associated with the later phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, who worked closely with William Morris on a wide range of decorative arts. Burne-Jones was involved in the rejuvenation of the tradition of stained glass art in Britain.
Burne-Jones's early paintings show the heavy inspiration of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, but by the 1860s Burne-Jones was discovering his own artistic "voice". In addition to painting and stained glass, he worked in a variety of crafts; including designing ceramic tiles, jewellery, tapestries, mosaics and book illustration.
Edward Coley Burne Jones was born in Birmingham. He attended Birmingham School of Art before studying theology at Exeter College. At Oxford he became a friend of William Morris as a consequence of a mutual interest in poetry. At that time neither Burne-Jones nor Morris knew Rossetti personally, but both were much influenced by his works. Burne-Jones had intended to become a church minister, but under Rossetti's influence he decided to become artists, and left college before taking a degree to pursue a career in art.
Burne-Jones had extraordinary faculty of invention as a designer; his mind, rich in knowledge of classical story and medieval romance, teemed with pictorial subjects. In 1859 he made his first journey to Italy. He saw Florence, Pisa, Siena, Venice and appears to have found the gentle and romantic Sienese more attractive than any other school. From that time, Rossetti's influence still persisted, and is visible, more strongly perhaps than ever before.
In 1861, William Morris founded the decorative arts firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. with Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown and Philip Webb as partners. The prospectus set forth that the firm would undertake carving, stained glass, metal-work, paper-hangings, chintzes (printed fabrics), and carpets.Within a few years it was flourishing.
In 1864 Burne-Jones was elected an associate of the Society of Painters in Water-Colours. The next six years saw a series of fine watercolours. In 1870, he resigned his membership following a controversy over his painting Phyllis and Demophoön. During the next seven years, 1870–1877, only two works of the painter's were exhibited. These years also mark the beginnings of Burne-Jones's partnership with the fine-art photographer Frederick Hollyer, whose reproductions would expose a wider audience to Burne-Jones's works in the coming decades.
Burne-Jones's paintings were one strand in the evolving tapestry of Aestheticism from the 1860s through the 1880s, which considered that art should be valued as an object of beauty engendering a sensual response, rather than for the story or moral implicit in the subject matter. In many ways this was antithetical to the ideals of Ruskin and the early Pre-Raphaelites. In 1877, the day of recognition came, with the opening of the first exhibition of the Grosvenor Gallery. Most of these pictures are painted in brilliant colours.
Burne-Jones was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1885, and the following year he exhibited at the Academy, A long illness for some time checked the painter's activity, which, when resumed, was much occupied with decorative schemes. An exhibition of his work was held at the New Gallery in the winter of 1892-1893. To this period belong several of his comparatively few portraits. In the winter following his death a second exhibition of his works was held at the New Gallery. Burne-Jones exerted a considerable influence on British painting. but also highly influential among French symbolist painters, from 1889.
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