Sunday, August 28, 2011
Happy Birthday, Ned!
Edward Burne-Jones, or Ned as he was known by his friends, is my favorite Pre-Raphaelite. Not only do I appreciate the dreamlike quality to his artwork, but I am also (and frankly even more so than his art itself) fascinated by the man. He seemed so enigmatic and mysterious, soft spoken and shy, and yet he had such a deep and fantastical inner landscape upon which he drew for his ethereal canvases.
I'll admit to a bit of a bias about Ned's life. My fascination with his character helps me excuse some faults that should perhaps not be excused; namely his affair with Maria Zambaco, and his chivalric love-filled letters to various young stunners during his older years. I explained the adoration he felt toward these women in the context of his love of Arthurian knights and romance. His feelings toward them were simple chivalry, I told myself. The truth of the matter is probably a bit of my belief and a bit more complex. It is hard to deny, for instance, the inherent sexuality of this sketch Ned drew for one of his adored young ladies. It shows her luxuriating in a bathtub:
Less risque but also intimate are these sketches of the same stunner relaxing in bed doing embroidery.
And then there is this astonishing sketch Ned did of himself and best friend William Morris in a steam bath, shared by the wonderful Pre-Raphaelite Passions on Facebook. I had no idea Ned had ever done a naked sketch of himself!!!
There is a new biography that has been the talk of the Pre-Raphaelite-obsessed community. Fiona MacCarthy has written what appears to be a very well researched biography of Edward Burne-Jones. We are all dying to read the new book, which is set to be released on September 1st in England (sadly, no release date known yet for the U.S.). From a few articles I've read in which MacCarthy talks about Ned, it sounds like she will not shy away from discussion of his intriguing and enigmatic sexual and romantic escapades.
Edward Burne-Jones...a fascinating man, whose life I think I could study for the rest of mine and still not tire of it. Today is his 178th birthday. Today we celebrate the man of such imagination, dream, talent, and desire.
A sketch of young Ned done by Rossetti. Also shared by Pre-Raphaelite Passions.