Parkstone International
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Burne-Jones’ oeuvre can be understood as an attempt to create in paint a world of perfect beauty, as far removed from the Birmingham of his youth as possible. At that time Birmingham was a byword for the dire effects of unregulated capitalism – a booming, industrial conglomeration of unimaginable ugliness and squalor. The two great French symbolist painters, Gustave Moreau and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, immediately recognised Burne-Jones as an artistic fellow traveller. But, it is very unlikely that Burne-Jones would have accepted or even, perhaps, have understood the label of ‘symbolist’. Yet he seems to have been one of the most representative figures of the symbolist movement and of that pervasive mood termed “fin-de-siecle”. Burne-Jones is usually labelled as a Pre-Raphaelite. In fact he was never a member of the Brotherhood formed in 1848. Burne-Jones’ brand of Pre-Raphaelitism derives not from Hunt and Millais but from Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Burne-Jones’ work in the late 1850s is, moreover, closely based on Rossetti’s style. His feminine ideal is also taken from that of Rossetti, with abundant hair, prominent chins, columnar necks and androgynous bodies hidden by copious medieval gowns. The prominent chins remain a striking feature of both artists’ depictions of women. From the 1860s their ideal types diverge. As Rossetti’s women balloon into ever more fleshy opulence, Burne-Jones’ women become more virginal and ethereal to the point where, in some of the last pictures, the women look anorexic. In the early 1870s Burne-Jones painted several mythical or legendary pictures in which he seems to have been trying to exorcise the traumas of his celebrated affair with Mary Zambaco. No living British painter between Constable and Bacon enjoyed the kind of international acclaim that Burne-Jones was accorded in the early 1890s. This great reputation began to slip in the latter half of the decade, however, and it plummeted after 1900 with the triumph of Modernism. With hindsight we can see this flatness and the turning away from narrative as characteristic of early Modernism and the first hesitant steps towards Abstraction. It is not as odd at it seems that Kandinsky cited Rossetti and Burne-Jones as forerunners of Abstraction in his book, “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”.
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About the author

Patrick Bade is a leading art historian and international guest speaker. Previous publications by Parkstone International include works on Beardsley, Renoir and Rops.

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Parkstone International
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Published on
Dec 22, 2011
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Art / Ceramics
Art / European
Art / General
Art / History / Modern (late 19th Century to 1945)
Art / Individual Artists / Monographs
Art / Techniques / Painting
Art / Techniques / Printmaking
Design / Decorative Arts
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Patrick Bade
Edvard Munch, born in 1863, was Norway's most popular artist. His brooding and anguished paintings, based on personal grief and obsessions, were instrumental in the development of Expressionism. During his childhood, the death of his parents, his brother and sister, and the mental illness of another sister, were of great influence on his convulsed and tortuous art. In his works, Munch turned again and again to the memory of illness, death and grief. During his career, Munch changed his idiom many times. At first, influenced by Impressionism and Post-impressionism, he turned to a highly personal style and content, increasingly concerned with images of illness and death. In the 1892s, his style developed a ‘Synthetist' idiom as seen in The Scream (1893) which is regarded as an icon and the portrayal of modern humanity's spiritual and existential anguish. He painted different versions of it. During the 1890s Munch favoured a shallow pictorial space, and used it in his frequently frontal pictures. His work often included the symbolic portrayal of such themes as misery, sickness, and death. and the poses of his figures in many of his portraits were chosen in order to capture their state of mind and psychological condition. It also lends a monumental, static quality to the paintings. In 1892, the Union of Berlin Artists invited Munch to exhibit at its November exhibition. His paintings invoked bitter controversy at the show, and after one week the exhibition closed. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis labeled his work “degenerate art”, and removed his works from German museums. This deeply hurt the anti-fascist Munch, who had come to feel Germany was his second homeland. In 1908 Munch's anxiety became acute and he was hospitalized. He returned to Norway in 1909 and died in Oslo in 1944.
Patrick Bade
Edvard Munch, nacido en 1863, fue el artista más popular de Noruega. Sus pinturas de aspecto meditabundo y angustioso están basadas en su propia pena y obsesiones, y fueron piezas clave en el desarrollo del expresionismo. Durante su niñez, la muerte de su madre, su hermano y hermana, así como la enfermedad mental de otra de sus hermanas, tuvieron una fuerte influencia sobre su arte convulso y tortuoso. En sus obras, Munch rondaba con insistencia el recuerdo de la enfermedad, la muerte y la desdicha. Durante su carrera, Munch cambió de estilo varias veces. Al principio, por influencia del impresionismo y post-impresionismo, produjo un estilo y contenido muy personal, cada vez más preocupado con imágenes de enfermedad y muerte. En los años cercanos a 1892, su estilo derivó hacia el sintetismo, como puede apreciarse en El grito (1893), obra que se considera como un icono y el retrato de la angustia existencial y espiritual de la humanidad moderna. De este cuadro pintó diferentes versiones. Durante la década de 1890, Munch favoreció un espacio pictórico ligero y lo empleó en sus retratos, que con frecuencia eran de frente. Sus obras solían incluir representaciones simbolistas de temas como la miseria, la enfermedad y la muerte. Las poses de sus modelos en muchos de los retratos captaban el estado de ánimo y la condición psicológica. Todo esto da también una cualidad monumental y estática a sus pinturas. En 1892, el Sindicato de Artistas de Berlín lo invitó a que exhibiera en su exposición de noviembre. Sus pinturas causaron amarga controversia y después de apenas una semana, la exposición cerró. En las décadas de 1930 y 1940, los nazis etiquetaron su obra como “arte degenerado” y retiraron sus pinturas de los museos alemanes. Esto hirió profundamente a Munch, que era antifascista y que había llegado a considerar Alemania como su patria adoptiva. En 1908 Munch sufrió un ataque de ansiedad aguda y fue hospitalizado. Volvió a Noruega en 1909 y murió en Oslo en 1944.
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