DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI: THE IMAGINATIVE GENIUS OF PRE-RAPHAELITE PAINTING
Reviving the medieval art through passionate imagination and sensuality, the British painter, poet and translator, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, is famous for founding the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of painters treating religious, moral, and medieval subjects in a nonacademic manner.
Best-known for influencing the European Symbolists and inspiring the second generation of artists and writers, Rossetti was born on May 12, 1828, in London, England, to English-Italian parents. From 1837 to 1842, he attended King’s College School and in 1844, he joined the Royal Academy Schools as a probationer, becoming a full student in December 1845. By 1847 he was considering careers in both poetry and painting, and briefly studied under Ford Madox Brown in March 1848.
In August 1848, Rossetti moved with William Holman Hunt to a studio in Cleveland Street and around September that year founded, with Holman Hunt and J.E. Millais, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Rossetti exhibited his first important paintings, “The Girlhood of Mary Virgin” at the Free Exhibition in March 1849. In September and October of that year he visited Paris and Flanders with Holman Hunt, and was greatly impressed by medieval and Renaissance art.
Late in 1849, Rossetti met Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal, who became a model for many of his paintings and sketches, they married in 1860. In April 1850, he exhibited “Ecce Ancilla Domini” at the National Institution, but rarely showed in public thereafter following the picture’s negative reception.
A commission to cover the walls of the Oxford Debating Union with Arthurian murals introduced Rossetti to William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, and A.C. Swinburne in 1856 and 57. During this time he met Jane Burden, who married William Morris, but she and Rossetti had intimate relationship for decades and she posed for some of Rossetti’s best-known paintings.
In 1858, Rossetti founded the Hogarth Club, an exhibiting and social club, with Madox Brown and others. In 1861, his translation of “The Early Italian Poets” was published and in 1862, his wife Elizabeth Siddal died from an overdose of laudanum. After her death, Rossetti visited Belgium with his brother William in 1863, and was in Paris in 1864. In 1865 he met Alexa Wilding, who became an important model for him.
From the mid-1860s, Rossetti began suffering from eye trouble and insomnia, and showed signs of paranoia. In October 1869, he exhumed his wife's coffin to retrieve his Poems, which were published in 1870. In 1872 his health broke down and he abandoned most of his old friendships. He spent long periods at Jane and William Morris's Kelmscott Manor between 1871 and 1874. In 1881 his new edition of Poems was published together with Ballads and Sonnets.
Rossetti died on April 9, 1882, in Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, England. Rossetti had reached a position of artistic respect and significantly influenced the cultural development of the late nineteenth century. He is remembered as one of England’s most forward thinking artists.