Tate Britain presents the largest Edward Burne-Jones retrospective to be held in the UK for a generation. Edward Burne-Jones is best known for his ties to the Pre-Raphaelites and his symbolist works of myths and legends. The exhibition brings together over 150 works in different media including painting, stained glass and tapestry and includes work created working for William Morris. Burne-Jones was born in Birmingham and whilst at Oxford became friends with William Morris who were both influenced by Gabriel Rossetti. Burne-Jones had intended to enter the church but was persuaded by Rossetti to become an artist.
The exhibition begins by looking at Burne-Jones relationship with Rossetti, its was the artist-poet who encouraged him and found him support from fellow artists and patrons. Works here include two stain glass windows related to Chaucer’s ‘Goode Wimmin’, The Wine of Circe and The Lament.
Rossetti was very impressed by Burne-Jones draughtsmanship and the second room entitled ‘Burne-Jones as a Draughtsman’ includes many of his drawings including Desiderium.
From 1877, Burne-Jones began to exhibit his paintings at the new Grosvenor Gallery that was seen as an alternative to the Royal Academy, some of his most popular pictures were Love among the Ruins, The Wheel of Fortune and The Golden Stairs.
Room four features a number of portraits, a number of familiar faces appear in these portraits including his wife Georgina and his daughter Margaret. Other portraits include paintings of Amy Gaskell and Lady Windsor.
From 1875, Burne-Jones worked on a number of paintings as part of a narrative cycle concerning myths and legends, the exhibition includes the Perseus Series and the Briar Rose series.
The Briar Rose series based on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale were especially popular with critics and general public.
The final room looks at ‘Burne-Jones as Designer’ and his influence on decorative arts at the end of the 19th century. Burne-Jones worked in a number of different media including painting, stained glass, tapestry, embroidery, furniture and book illustration. His work for Morris and Co was highly valued especially his many designs for stained glass windows. In this room is the remarkable Graham Piano 1879-80, embroideries, illustrated books and spectacular large-scale tapestries like The Arming and Departure of the Knights of the Round Table on the Quest for the Holy Grail 1890-1894 and Adoration of the Magi 1894.
This fascinating exhibition explores the work and legacy of an artist who is often associated with the Pre-Raphaelites and Symbolist movements. The exhibition suggests that Burne-Jones is one of the most influential British artists of the 19th century and walking around the exhibition it would be difficult to suggest that this is not the case. However his pursuit of ‘beauty’ in art was often at odds with the social realism movements at the turn of the twentieth century. Without doubt, his draughtsmanship was widely admired by many and unlike many of his contemporaries, he did achieve world-wide fame and recognition in his life-time. Edward Burne-Jones works did touch a chord with sections of Victorian society who loved the escapism of his enchanted worlds inhabited by beautiful and melancholy beings. For much of the 20th century, his work has been overlooked, this exhibition is a reminder of the range and scope of his work and highlights his distinct and original approach to painting and decorative arts.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
For more information or to book tickets, visit the Tate Britain website here
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