While still a student at Oxford, Edward Burne-Jones formed a friendship and made a renunciation that would shape art history. The friendship was with William Morris, with whom he would occupy the social and intellectual center of the era’s cult of beauty. The renunciation was of his intention to enter the clergy, when he—together with Morris—vowed to throw over the Church in favor of art. In Fiona MacCarthy’s riveting account of Burne-Jones’s life, that exchange of faith for art places him at the intersection of the nineteenth century and the Modern, as he leads us forward from Victorian mores and attitudes to the psychological, sexual, and artistic audacity that would characterize the early twentieth century.
In MacCarthy’s hands, Burne-Jones emerges as a great visionary painter, a master of mystic reverie, and a pivotal late nineteenth-century cultural and artistic figure. Lavishly illustrated with color plates, The Last Pre-Raphaelite shows that Burne-Jones’s influence extended far beyond his own circle to Freudian Vienna and the delicately gilded erotic dream paintings of Gustav Klimt, the Swiss Symbolist painter Ferdinand Hodler, and the young Pablo Picasso and the Catalan painters.
Drawing on extensive research, MacCarthy offers a fresh perspective on the achievement of Burne-Jones, a precursor to the Modern, and tells the dramatic, fascinating story of this peculiarly captivating and elusive man.