Sunday, October 27, 2013

PRB - Part 4

Now let me tell you a little about Rossetti - he was born in London in May of 1828, the son of an Italian immigrant family.  His father, Gabriel Rossetti, was a famous Italian poet and Dante scholar who had come to England as a refugee after the Neapolitan revolution in 1821.

Rossetti aspired to be a poet and attended King's College School.  However, he also wished to be a painter. He studied at Henry Sass's Drawing Academy from 1841 to 1845 when he enrolled at the Antique School of the Royal Academy, leaving in 1848.  After leaving the Royal Academy, Rossetti studied under Ford Madox Brown before transferring his allegiance to Holman Hunt.  His friendship with Hunt and subsequent meeting with Mallais was the major factor in the creation of the PRB.  Criticism of his paintings caused him to withdraw from public exhibitions and turn to watercolors, which he sold privately.

In the early 1850s he met Elizabeth Siddal.  The twenty-year-old with her tall thin frame and copper hair was the first of the PRB stunners.  She became his lover, and after and on-off relationship, he married her in 1860.

Rossetti made many pencil drawings of Lizzie which were extremely beautiful and sensitive.  In 1862, after the still birth of their child, Lizzie committed suicide by overdosing on laudanum.  Overcome with grief, Rossetti enclosed a small journal in Elizabeth's coffin containing the only copies he had of many of his poems.  He is said to have slid the book into her red hair.  In 1862 he produced the famous picture "Beata Beatrix", a tribute to his deceased wife, who was quite obviously the model for Beatrix.

In 1869, Rossetti had his wife's body exhumed to recover his poems.  The mental problems, which ultimately destroyed him, were most likely to have started from this unhappy and bizarre event.

In the last twenty years of his life, Rossetti became increasingly obsessed with Jane Morris, the wife of his friend William Morris.  For most of these years, his pictures were of lone women.  Most of the pictures had a stylized Jane Morris as their model.  In the 1870s Rossetti became addicted to chloral (a narcotic) and alcohol.  Consequently, Jane Morris broke off their relationship, as he started to lose his reason.

Toward the end of his life, Rossetti sank into a morbid state, darkened by his drug addiction to choral and increasing mental instability.  This was possibly worsened by his reaction to savage critical attacks on his disinterred poetry from the manuscript poems he had buried with his wife.  He spent his last years as a withdrawn recluse.

He died at the house of a friend on Easter Sunday, 1882.  He had gone there in an attempt to recover his health, which had been destroyed by choral as Elizabeth's had been destroyed by laudanum.  He is buried at Birchington-on-the-Sea, Kent, England.

So, what is the connection between Rossetti and William Morris besides Rossetti's attraction to his wife Jane?  Morris founded a design firm with Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones as partners.   And the rest, as they say, is history.


  1. thank you for sharing dear..
    big hugs x

  2. I find these people so fascinating. Rossetti especially.