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The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy: British Art and Design

May 20–October 26, 2014

Sir Edward Burne-Jones

Sir Edward Burne-Jones (British, 1833–1898) | The Love Song

Sir Edward Burne-Jones (British, 1833–1898). The Love Song, 1868–77. Oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Alfred N. Punnett Endowment Fund, 1947 (47.26)

Although Burne-Jones decided to become an artist only in his early twenties and received little formal training, he had one of the most prolific careers among the Pre-Raphaelites. Reading critic John Ruskin at university propelled him and the like-minded Morris to seek out Rossetti—"the chief figure in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood"—who encouraged Burne-Jones "to give his whole life to Art."

Wry and whimsical by nature, Burne-Jones was unabashedly earnest and idealistic in his work. Deeply influenced at first by Rossetti, he soon developed a restrained, graceful style ideally suited to pictures evoking the soul’s quest for meaning and perfection. Burne-Jones’s current reputation rests on his paintings, but he was also a highly accomplished designer for Morris & Company, realizing a true marriage of the arts. Apart from a hiatus in the 1870s, he exhibited regularly and to mounting acclaim, bringing Pre-Raphaelitism to a wide audience. The Love Song, a key work of his maturity, reflects the artist’s enthusiasm for the motifs of music and desire.