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: A Book of Drawings by Sir Edward Burne-Jones


Minneapolis Institute of Arts



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The Institute has recently purchased from the income of the Dunwoody Fund an exceedingly interesting book of drawings by the famous English master, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, one of the most celebrated painters of the XIX century and a distinguished figure in the Pre-Raphaelite movement. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was formed in 1848 by certain young men whose object was to break from the empty conventionality which had gradually dominated English art, substituting for it real, even if primitive, ideas and the sincere study of nature down to the most intimate detail. They sought to return to the early sincerity of primitive art; hence the name Pre-Raphaelite. The movement was at first received with ridicule and violent abuse, not wholly unprovoked by the extremes to which the Brotherhood went in their first endeavors. The final effect of the movement, however, was entirely beneficial to English painting.Sir Edward Burne-Jones was not one of the original founders of the Society, but, as a follower of Gabriel Rossetti, the ruling spirit of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he carried on the work of the society. Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) was of Celtic extraction. He was educated for the church, but at the age of twenty-two, made the acquaintance of Rossetti, by whom he was induced to leave his studies at Oxford and become an artist. In the course of his long life, he not only painted many pictures, but produced a large number of designs for stained glass and cartoons for tapestries and for mosaics. Much of his decorative work was done in collaboration with William Morris. He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1885, but resigned in 1893. He was created a Baronet the following year.The sketch book purchased by the Institute was acquired by the former owner from the artist’s son, Sir Philip Burne-Jones. In a letter Sir Philip writes: “This book of studies and designs by my father is an important example of his work and methods. Before starting upon the actual painting of a large composition, it was my father’s custom to make innumerable careful studies of limbs, draperies, etc., in chalk and pencil, and from these he worked upon the picture. The book which is now in your possession exemplifies this system.”The sketch book consists of 89 leaves and is bound in board covers. Inside the front cover is the artist’s signature and address—The Grange, Northend Road, W. Kensington. The paper is hand-made, deckle edged, the pages approximately 6 1/2 in. by 9 1/4 in. in size. The book, which is numbered on the outside 66, contains 113 original drawings. Some of these drawings are on both sides of a leaf, and frequently two or more drawings are on a single page. The drawings are executed, for the most part, in lead pencil, although several of the most interesting are in colored chalk. The drawings were executed presumably in the late eighties.The book will be dismembered and the pages separately matted. A selection of these will then be placed on exhibition in the alcoves of the corridor on the second floor. The remainder will be kept in portfolios in the library, which within a few months now the Institute hopes to open. The drawings on exhibition will be changed from time to time.In technique these drawings vary from summary delineations to carefully modeled drawings which have the delicacy of silver point. In all, however, is that freshness of inspiration which gives these drawings an unfailing charm. In a later number of the Bulletin the drawings will be described in greater detail.Referenced Works of Art
  1. Portrait of the Artist’s Daughter, Mrs. J. W. Mackail
    Drawing by Sir Edward Burne-Jones
  2. Studies of Two Draped Figures
    Drawing by Sir Edward Burne-Jones
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Source: Joseph Breck, "A Book of Drawings by Sir Edward Burne-Jones," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 4, no. 4 (April, 1915): 39-42.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009