Francesco Carelli , University of Milan

Tate Britain presents  the first major Burne-Jones retrospective to be held in London for over   40 years.      Renowned for otherworldly depictions of   beauty inspired by myth, legend and the Bible, Edward  Burne-Jones (1833–98) was a pioneer of the symbolist movement and the only Pre-Raphaelite to achieve  world-wide recognition in his lifetime.

This ambitious and wide-ranging exhibition  brings  together over  150 works in different media including painting, stained glass and tapestry, reasserting him as one of  the most influential British artists of the 19th century.

Edward Burne-Jones charts  his rise from an outsider of British art to one of the great artists of the European  fin de siècle. Burne-Jones rejected Victorian industrial ideals, offering an enchanted parallel universe inhabited  by beautiful and melancholy beings.


The exhibition  brings together all the major works from across his  four-decade career, depicting Arthurian knights, Classical heroes and  Biblical angels. Spectacular large-scale  paintings like Love among the Ruins 1870-73 and The Wheel of Fortune 1883  shows  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.


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  opens with a focus on his   early career, highlighting his work as a church decorator. Striking examples of stained glass such as The Good  Shepherd 1857-61 are  presented alongside The Adoration of the Magi 1861, a large-scale altarpiece created  for the church of St Paul’s in Brighton.


Considered one of the greatest draughtsmen of the 19th century,  Burne-Jones’s remarkable drawings such as Desiderium 1873   are  also  showcased to demonstrate his  sensitive and personal response to Renaissance Old Masters.

Familiar faces populate Burne-Jones’s otherwise imaginary worlds, drawn from the artist’s intimate circle of  family and friends. Several of these figures  feature in a section of the exhibition highlighting Burne- Jones’s unique approach to portraiture.


His paintings of Amy Gaskell 1893 and Lady Windsor 1893-95 stand in contrast to the fashionable society portraits of the day, presenting idealised likenesses with stark minimal compositions and a restrained colour palette.


Tate Britain also explores  the key role of the decorative arts in Burne-Jones’s career, including his long working relationship with William Morris. Both men were committed to social reform and intended their   collaborative work to reach a broad audience through beauty of design and execution.   The dazzling Graham

Piano 1879-80  is displayed alongside 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.