24th October – 24th February 2019. Tate Britain, London
Words by Lavinia Dickson-Robinson
Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, First Baronet ARA was one of the most important British artists and designers of the 19th century, closely associated with the later phase of the
Pre-Raphaelite movement. He was great friends with William Morris, and through this exhibition one can see how closely both worked together. They became friends at Oxford, where they also met Gabriel Dante Rossetti, who had greatly influenced their work.
Burnes-Jones’s works are so beautiful that you will have to catch your breath. The diversity of media used by Burne-Jones is astonishing, ranging from canvas to stained-glass, from tapestry to mosaic. The depth and ethereal beauty in Burne-Jones’s work seems magical. He rejected Victorian industrial ideals, taking us instead to an enchanted realm depicting Arthurian knights, Classical heroes and Biblical angels. This massive retrospective exhibition brings together 150 works by the artist, from his early stained-glass windows to two of his most awe inspiring pieces: The Briar Rose c1890 and the unfinished Perseus series (started 1875).
Burne-Jones’s lack of formal training in fine art allowed him to develop a distinct and highly idiosyncratic approach to painting that bridged the fine and decorative arts. The exhibition also includes spectacular large-scale paintings like Love among the Ruins 1870-73 and The Wheel of Fortune 1883 show his international impact, including at the 1889 Exposition Universelle when he emerged on the world stage as the leading light of symbolist art. Two rooms dedicated to the artist’s most famous narrative cycles are shown together for the first time. These huge canvases are among his finest and best-loved works, telling the action-packed story of Perseus and the dreamlike fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty.
I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to spend a grey autumn afternoon than visiting this stunning exhibition.