summary of dante gabriel rossetti
Recognized throughout history as an inspired yet provocative maverick, Dante Gabriel Rossetti first rose to fame as a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The brotherhood defied the “decadent” indulgences of the day by seeking inspiration and religious guidance in medieval art. Instead of producing dramatic historical narratives (as was the fashion of the time), the brotherhood adhered to an inflexible set of puritanical and aesthetic standards that Rossetti soon tired of. he continued to paint his mythical parables with the same luminosity and attention to the smallest pictorial detail, but rossetti, longing to be recognized as a poet as well, became consumed with the idea of feminine beauty. His licentious lifestyle, though condemned by many of his colleagues, breathed erotic life and, it must be said, genuine personality into his art. But over time, his destructive lifestyle led to his mental decline, but as often happens after a while, this simply increased the legend of him as a Victorian-era maverick prodigious.
- As a leader in the pre-raphaelite brotherhood movement, rossetti looked back to a period before the great renaissance. he was inspired by the purity and symbolism of medieval and religious fables found in 15th century Florentine and Sienna painting
- rossetti is predominantly recognized as a portrait artist. his preference was for religious subjects, but as he matured as an artist, his work became more divisive due to his habit of using family members and lovers to depict holy icons.
- rossetti was a founding member of the furniture and decoration company, morris, marshall, faulkner & co. the company, established in 1861, was admired for its lively and complex designs. Although he soon lost interest in the decorative arts, and although his relationship with William Morris suffered as a result, Rossetti’s designs remain a tangible link between the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood and Morris’s arts and crafts movement.
- in later life, rossetti had wanted to abandon art and pursue his lifelong ambition of becoming a poet in the mold of his idols dante (his namesake), byron and keats. however, the published collection of him was considered by critics to be too detailed and this setback was thought to have contributed to a slowdown in his artistic output, and was indeed cited as a catalyst for his drug addiction and mental decline.
important art by dante gabriel rossetti
biography of dante gabriel rossetti
childhood and education
gabriel charles dante rossetti was born in may 1828 to italian emigrants living in london. The boy’s father, Gabriel Pasquale Giuseppe Rossetti, was a polymath – he had taught Italian at Kings College from 1831 – and a poet who had been exiled from Italy for his support of revolutionary nationalism. His Anglo-Italian mother, Frances Mary Poldari, was the daughter of an exiled noble Italian scholar who, in addition to his maternal duties, enjoyed a career as a private teacher. The couple’s rich literary and cultural background meant that their passion for learning was passed on to their four children: Gabriel, Christina, William, and Maria. the children were practicing Anglicans but carried with them something of their father’s Catholic worldview.
From an early age, Gabriel Charles Dante chose to be addressed by his middle name, Dante, to emphasize his affinity with the medieval Italian poet and writer (about whom his father had written extensively). in fact, dante had been surrounded by the art and literature of medieval italy, and even as a child he composed plays and poetry and produced drawings in this style. Dante was able to develop his early talents (for painting and writing) through a combination of homeschooling and education at Kings College. he came to love passages from the bible, shakespearean tragedies, edgar allan poe and byron’s poetry. As a teenager, he was torn between ambitions to become a poet or a painter, often stating that his true passion was in writing and poetry.
rossetti studied at the henry sass academy of drawing between 1841 and 1845, and then for another three years at the royal academy’s school of antiquities. In 1848, just twenty years old, Rossetti had a great deal of practical training behind him, yet he found himself at odds with the Victorian art establishment. For Rossetti, the art of the Academy seemed full of sentimental, prickly, self-righteous scenes, and serious, snobbish portraits. rossetti felt renewed rather by the work of ford madox brown, by his attention to detail, his graphic style and his daring use of color. This style was much closer to the luminous medieval paintings that Rossetti adored. The younger Rossetti asked Brown to tutor him, and he maintained a close relationship with the older painter for the rest of his life.
In the mid-1840s, Rossetti attended an exhibition of a painting called St Agnes’s Eve, by a young artist named William Holman Hunt. The painting was an illustration to a little-known poem by Keats. Like Holman Hunt, Rossetti was a lover of Keats, seeing in Hunt a kindred soul who may share his artistic ideals and wish to confront the bland face of academia. Rossetti and Hunt began rooming together in Fitzrovia, and Rossetti met a classmate of Holman Hunt’s at the Royal Academy of Arts, John Everett Millais. In 1848, the three artists met at the home of Millais’s parents on Gower Street and formed the first official meeting of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB). by the fall, the brotherhood had recruited four more members: painters james collinson and frederic george stephens, poet and critic william michael rossetti (dante’s brother), and sculptor thomas woolner.
The principles of the brotherhood were multiple and, in a way, complex. People like the influential critic John Ruskin had pointed to Rossetti as the de facto leader of the brotherhood, and it was Rossetti who decided to bring together a group of artists who were actually varied and disparate. . In his autobiography, however, Holman Hunt insisted that it was he and Millais who gave birth to the brotherhood, and that Rossetti was, at heart, a poet (rather than a painter). however, it was rossetti who sought to establish the common goals of the brotherhood:
1. have genuine ideas to express;
2. carefully study nature, to know how to express it;
3. to sympathize with the direct, serious and sincere of the previous art, to the exclusion of the conventional, ostentatious and learned by heart; and
4. most indispensable of all, to produce completely good paintings and statues.
the brotherhood sought to return to a time before the rule of rafael and the mannerist artists who succeeded him; in other words, to emulate the spiritual, mythological, and medieval while paying attention to bold coloration and fine image detail. Complex and symbolic compositions, bright jewel colors, detailed brushwork, and poetic and historical references were factors shared by the artists. The eminent critic John Ruskin wrote: “Every Pre-Raphaelite landscape background is painted to the last touch, in the open air, of the thing itself. Every Pre-Raphaelite figure, however studied its expression, is a true portrait of some living being.” person”. Above all, the brotherhood despised the work of the founder of the royal academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds, whom they collectively despised.
as a way of publishing their writings and poetry, the brotherhood created their own magazine called el germen. Not only were all seven members of the brotherhood involved in the publication, but he was also associated with such figures as Christina Rossetti (Dante’s sister), Madox Brown, and the movement’s champion critic John Ruskin. the first edition was published in 1850 and the public face of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood was born. proclaimed; “in order to obtain the thoughts of artists, on nature as it evolves in art […] this periodical has been established. [it is not] open to the conflicting opinions of all who wield the brush and the palette, nor is it limited to actual practitioners, but is intended to enunciate the principles of those who, in the true spirit of art, impose a rigid adherence to the simplicity of nature, whether in art or poetry.”
Rossetti, however, generated controversy from the start. In a series based on the first lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary, for example, Rossetti used a complex array of biblical symbols and luminous colors to create vivid scenes set in a Mediterranean-style, medieval setting. however, what surprised the viewing public was the way in which the holy figures were depicted as flesh-and-blood human beings. while the Victorian public may have been willing to accept a change in style, they were struck by the way in which the entire solemn process of painting Biblical scenes seemed to have been overturned. In addition, Rossetti’s scenes had a certain Catholic leaning that set them apart from British Anglican religious painters. they were richly embellished and centered on the most catholic religious figure, the madonna; they embodied a certain “foreignness,” or a European sensuality and Old World mysticism, which set it apart even from hunting and millais. By the early 1850s, the original PRB had drifted apart and Rossetti took his work in a new direction.
period of maturity
Rossetti eschewed detailed religious scenes and instead invested in his obsession with female beauty, which he explored primarily through portraiture. Indeed, mythological portraits became the bulk of his life’s work, and the goddesses, tragic heroines, and saints Rossetti brought to life were based on a handful of lovers and muses. Rossetti was most ecstatically enthralled with Elizabeth Siddal. In 1850, Dante met Siddal, herself an aspiring artist, when she was just 19 years old and working as a milliner’s assistant. She soon became Rossetti’s model, student, lover, and muse (she also modeled for other Pre-Raphaelite artists, including John Everett Millais’s famous Ophelia (1851-52)). some of rossetti’s loveliest sketches and poetry were dedicated to siddal. And although they were married (in 1860), their relationship was tumultuous and not helped by Rossetti’s love affairs and Siddal’s addiction to laudanum. In February 1862, Elizabeth Siddal, heartbroken by another year of affairs with Rossetti, and after suffering her own miscarriage, overdosed on laudanum and died. Rossetti, overcome with grief and guilt, buried his half-finished poetry manuscript with his wife, placing it under her hands and surrounded by locks of her copper-colored hair. He later idealized the image of her as Dante’s Beatrice in his painting Beata Beatrix (1864-70).
while married to siddal, rossetti had sexual relations with other prominent models, one of whom was fanny cornforth. While Siddal tended to model for mythological heroines, Cornforth modeled for Rossetti’s more sensual portraits. Since Corthworth had worked as both a domestic servant and a prostitute, there was a clear class disparity between the two, but it is known that Rossetti adored Cornforth and the couple remained together until her death. Rossetti had a second significant relationship outside of his marriage, with Jane Morris. The wife of her younger contemporary and admirer, William Morris, Jane was not happy in her marriage and had known Rossetti, for whom she had also modeled, since the late 1850s. When Rossetti and William Morris began working together creating a furniture and decorating business (Morris & Co.) in 1861, the two became even closer. Their relationship is believed to have certainly begun in 1865 and escalated in intensity after William Morris left them alone for a summer to decorate the couple’s new home in 1871 (apparently with some awareness of the couple’s clandestine relationship). ).
late menstruation and death
after lizzie’s death, rossetti’s behavior became more erratic. He moved into a Tudor house in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, accompanied by Fanny, who lived nearby and became her “housekeeper.” Rossetti surrounded himself with whimsical furniture and exotic pets, including a wombat, a toucan in a cowboy hat, and a llama! The stunning house was captured by watercolourist Henry Treffry Dunn, who recalled such details as an “original make-up of black lacquered Chinese panels with gold-embossed designs of birds, animals, flowers and fruit.”
throughout the 1860s and early 1870s, rossetti continued to be prolific in his portraiture of beauties. he not only continued to paint fanny and jane morris, but also discovered a new model, alexa wilding, dressmaker and actress. in fact, he painted more finished works of savages in this period than any of his other sitters. this is perhaps due to the fact that they were not romantically involved, although the two were close friends.
In this last period of his life, Rossetti was desperate to realize his lifelong aspirations as a poet. However, the main body of poetry by him had been buried with Lizzie Siddall in Highgate Cemetery. In an erratic move, Rossetti exhumed the grave of his wife in 1870. He published his first volume of his poems in the same year, under the title Poems by D.G Rossetti. however, the work was poorly received and considered overloaded and eroticized; An example of “the carnal school of poetry,” as critic Robert Buchanan disparagingly described it. Disappointment at the poor reception of his poems and the slowdown in his pictorial output contributed to a mental breakdown in the summer of 1872. Rossetti began to self-medicate with whiskey and chloral hydrate, until he became addicted to it. severe. In 1874, his circumstances worsened further when William Morris ousted Rossetti from the decorative arts firm they shared.
For the rest of his life, Rossetti secluded himself in Cheyne Walk, confined to his home due to alcohol psychosis, liver damage, and leg paralysis. he died on easter sunday, 1882, at the age of 53. Until the end, Fanny Cornforth had visited and cared for Rossetti (even after she married another man in 1879). Her most sensual and passionate models and lovers became lifelong friends and confidantes, passing many of Rossetti’s paintings and memorabilia to future generations.
the legacy of dante gabriel rossetti
Rossetti was a driving force in the brotherhood, and the artist artists who came to follow him in the second wave of the brotherhood from the 1850s onward. Most significantly, this included William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, and John William Waterhouse. Rossetti was greatly admired by this generation, particularly his medieval decorative style, and Rossetti was a major influence on the arts and crafts movement that Morris formed in the 1880s. After his death, Rossetti was heralded as a forerunner of aestheticism and European symbolism. The cult of beauty and “art for art’s sake,” along with a decadent approach to life, were integral to artists and poets such as Aubrey Beardsley and Oscar Wilde. However, after the turn of the century, Rossetti and the other Pre-Raphaelites fell out of fashion. After World War I, many modernists associated these artists with a stifling Victorian culture and/or a kind of decadent blindness to the ills of society and the horror of coming war.
in the 1940s, rossetti found the most unlikely of admirers in the urban realist painter l.s lowry. While Lowry painted the grim realities of working life in Manchester, he was also an enthusiastic admirer and collector of Rossetti’s work. He even created the “Rossetti Society” in 1966. He was especially fascinated by Rossetti’s visions of female beauty, stating that “I don’t like his women at all, but they fascinate me, like a snake.” When Lowry died in the 1970s, he left behind many important Rossetti paintings at the Salford Museum in Manchester. it is also known that the author j.r.r tolkien was inspired by the pre-raphaelite scenes for his vision of “middle-earth ” as imagined in the universe of him the lord of the rings .
Today, Rossetti’s work is reproduced en masse and widely exhibited. his painting proserpine sold for more than $5 million in 2013, setting a new record for rossetti’s work. critical perspectives on the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood now see the group as the first truly modern British artists; art historian jason rosenfeld describes them in fact as the “yba’s of their generation”. Rossetti’s personal life is also the subject of much narrative and fiction, with a continuing fascination with the women behind the portraits. Contemporary Australian photographer Donna Stevens has recreated scenes of Rossetti for the modern age, including her portrait series Love Letters to Rossetti from 2015.