Victorian Art & Design
Was Burne-Jones a Pre-Raphaelite?

Burne-Jones spoke of himself as a Pre-Raphaelite and early in his career he owed much to Rossetti.  In his subject matter Burne-Jones shows the Pre-Raphaelite love of old legends.  His characters are always dressed in flowing draperies and not in crinolines.

Burne-Jones does not, however, show the Pre-Raphaelites'  love of nature.  He does not paint every plant in the foreground in great detail as Millais did in his Ophelia. The colourful flowers in the foreground of Burne-Jones's tapestries were added later by Morris's chief designer, J. H. Dearle.  Burne-Jones's watercolour,  The Star of  Bethlehem, does not have most of the flowers found in his Adoration of the Kings tapestry on which it is based, they were drawn by Dearle.

The Pre-Raphaelites thought that every painting should have a meaning. Burne-Jones received hundreds of letters asking for the meaning of his Golden Stairs, but he said it had no meaning. Instead Burne-Jones wished to paint an idealised beauty, usually of young women. He was criticised because all his faces looked so similar and it was so hard to tell if they were men or women, but the Pre-Raphaelites were praised for the individuality of their faces.

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