March 8, 2016

Edward Burne-Jones

Edward Burne-Jones
Penelople Fitzgerald


(March 8, 2016)

A TLS retrospective review of Penelope Fitzgerald’s work mention this, her first book, a few years back. I couldn’t find a copy. Now it’s back in print, and it’s a lot of fun. Of a period in which Burne-Jones was madly in love with his model (who was married, and who had wealth and influence of her own) and William Morris’s wife was in love with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, she remarks:

The fact that Morris, Burne-Jones and Rossetti could live through these days and months and maintain such a convincing everyday life will only seem strange to those who's marriage has experienced no crisis.

Later, of the Aesthetes, she explains that

The Aesthetic movement, like all movement led not by artists but their followers, would first dilute, then copy, then exaggerate, then become ridiculous, then grow out of date.

It’s fascinating to me the William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones went off to Oxford together, already friends, expecting to become ministers and, someday, bishops. At Oxford, they recognized that their lack of belief made this career choice difficult, and so they took up Art. It never seems to have occurred to either that they might not be good at art, that they might need talents or genius or that certain something. They just set to work.