From Publishers Weekly
As a schoolboy in Birmingham, England, Burne-Jones was already signing his name "Edouard de Bymyngham"--an early romantic impulse borne out by the life and work of this second-generation Pre-Raphaelite and leader of the aesthetic movement, whose massive output of watercolor and oil paintings, intricate pencil drawings, tapestries, stained-glass windows and other decorative objects are gathered this summer at a Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit in New York City. In this richly illustrated monograph, Wood, a Victorianist and London gallery owner, provides a sometimes cursory but fervent portrait of the artist, whose often murky technique and sentimental narrative proclivities (Arthurian legend and fairy tales figure hugely) have had a checkered critical history. Although he was the first artist to be given a memorial service at Westminster Abbey, Burne-Jones's reputation eroded during the "darkest days of modernism," writes Wood. But Wood's enthusiasm, bolstered by the thoughtful testimony of Burne-Jones champion Henry James and the liberally quoted words of the artist himself, who is revealed as appealingly self-conscious and extremely adroit with language, is infectious. Wood perhaps overidealizes the lifelong friendship and collaboration with William Morris, begun at Oxford, but his retelling is moving all the same when, upon Morris's death in 1896, Burne-Jones writes that "the things that in thought are most of me, most dear and necessary, are dear and necessary to no one except Morris only." There are 80 full-color and 120 b&w images, though the lack of comparative illustrations (especially by Burne-Jones's mentor Dante Gabriel Rossetti) impedes Wood's art-historical analysis considerably. (Aug.) FYI: Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer, the official exhibition catalogue, is published by the Metroplitan Museum and distributed by Abrams. It offers more biographical detail, more illustrations and accessible, often illuminating, catalogue entries, with essays by Alan Crawford, Stephen Wildman and other critics and curators. ($75 376p ISBN 0-8109-6522-4)
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