Coley Burne-Jones. Maria Zambaco (1870)

Edward Coley Burne-Jones British genius painter, designer

Coley Burne-Jones. Maria Zambaco (1870)
Maria Zambaco (1870)

British genius painter, designer and stained glass artist of the Victorian era

Coley Burne-Jones. The deadly head of Medusa
The deadly head of Medusa

Edward Coley Burne-Jones a famous English artist of the second half of the XIX century, a prominent representative of romanticism in European fine arts. Edward Coley Burne-Jones was also an outstanding stained glass painter and created many glass paintings for the temples and churches of Foggy Albion. The master’s work had a strong influence on subsequent generations of painters, and his biography is closely connected with the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Edward Coley Burne-Jones also devoted a lot of energy to the arts and crafts. He developed design sketches for ceramics and textiles, mosaics and stage costumes. The artist’s eldest son Philip (Philipp Burne-Jones) continued his father’s work and also became a prominent British artist.

Coley Burne-Jones. The Mother Superior's Tale (1898)
The Mother Superior’s Tale (1898)

Biography of Edward Coley Burne-Jones

Edward Coley Burne-Jones was born on August 28, 1833 in the family of a master for the production of picture frames. The boy’s mother, Elizabeth (nee Kolya), died when he was only six days old. Therefore, all the worries about raising the baby fell on the shoulders of the father and the family housekeeper.

Edward received his primary education at the prestigious gymnasium of King Edward VI (Edward VI), and in 1848 he entered the Birmingham School of Art, where he studied for the next four years. Raised in strict religious traditions, the young man did not initially plan to devote his life to art. On the contrary, after entering college in the theology department, he seriously intended to become a church minister.

But as a student, Burne-Jones became close friends with William Morris, with whom he was united by a love of poetry and a fascination with medieval literature. At the same time, Edward first got acquainted with the works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Dante Gabriel Rossetti) and decided to become a painter.

Coley Burne-Jones. Garden of the Hesperides (1887)
Garden of the Hesperides (1887)

Birmingham Brotherhood

Shortly before the final exams in 1856, the young man left school without receiving a diploma. Together with Morris and a group of other like-minded people, they organized the Birmingham Brotherhood. At the meetings, young people argued about art and even started publishing their own magazine, Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, to promote their ideas and attract supporters.

During the same period, Edward personally met Rossetti, who became for him not only a close friend, but also a teacher. Burne-Jones did not have an academic art education, but he had an undeniable talent for painting and a great desire to learn this art. Under Rossetti’s guidance, he began to paint with watercolors, and a little later became interested in the manufacture of stained glass.

Coley Burne-Jones. King Arthur's last dream in Avalon
King Arthur’s last dream in Avalon

In 1857, the aspiring artist, along with Morris, Valentine Cameron Prinsep and John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, was commissioned to paint the walls of the Oxford Debating Society building. Young people enthusiastically set about solving a difficult task, but the result was disastrous. None of them possessed professional knowledge of the technique of fresco, so the paintings peeled off the walls even in the process of work.

In 1859, Edward Coley Burne-Jones visited Italy.

He visited the largest cities of the Apennine Peninsula, got acquainted with the work of the great masters of past eras. And when he returned to England a year later, he married Georgiana MacDonald, the younger sister of his school friend. In this marriage, Edward had three children two boys and a girl, but the youngest son died in infancy.

Coley Burne-Jones. Armament of Perseus
Armament of Perseus

In 1861, Morris founded Morris Co, an arts and crafts company, to which he invited Edward and several other friends from the Birmingham Brotherhood. For this firm, Burne-Jones created many stained glass windows and tapestries that later adorned churches in different parts of Britain. In addition, the artist has been illustrating books for several decades.

In 1864, Edward Coley Burne-Jones became a member of the British Society of Watercolor Artists and from that moment on, he invariably participated in the exhibitions of the association. And two years later, an extraordinary event took place in his personal life. The master had a whirlwind romance with the model Maria Zambaco, who served as a model for his paintings. The artist was so consumed by passion that he decided to leave the family. But his wife did not give him a divorce, and his friends did not approve of his act.

Wizard. Coley Burne-Jones
The last years of the artist’s life

In 1871, being in a serious psychological state, the artist, together with Maria Zambako, decided to commit suicide, but the police prevented them. Nevertheless, Maria continued to pose for the painter’s paintings after that until his death, but relations with his wife deteriorated greatly.

While Edward was going through a love affair with his model, his wife became close friends with Morris. An old friend of the artist at this time suffered from the fact that his wife cheated on him with Rossetti. He even offered Georgiana to go to him and leave her husband, but this did not happen. Gradually, the passions subsided, and the Morrises and Burne-Jones remained in an official marriage.

Coley Burne-Jones. Lady Burn-Jones, her son Philip and her daughter Margaret
Lady Burn-Jones, her son Philip and her daughter Margaret

From the beginning of the 1870s, the painter began to paint more oil paintings, although he never forgot about the watercolor technique. During this period, he created his best masterpieces and gained immense popularity with the public. In 1881, Edward Coley Burne-Jones received his degree from Oxford University, and four years later he headed the Birmingham Association of Painters and became a member of the National Academy of Arts.

In 1893, the British Prime Minister conferred the title of Baronet on the artist for services to the Fatherland.

But this event caused sharp attacks on him from his wife and Morris, who were carried away by the ideas of socialism and had a sharply negative attitude towards British estate traditions. But the son of the master was very happy about the opportunity to inherit his father’s title and soon took advantage of it with pleasure.

After Morris’s death in 1896, the artist’s health began to deteriorate rapidly, he was often ill, but until his last days he continued to work hard. And on June 17, 1898, Edward Corey Burne-Jones died of the flu at the age of 64. In commemoration of the great master’s merits, a memorial service for him was held at Westminster Abbey. Before him, no other artist in the history of England had received such a great honor.

Coley Burne-Jones. Crying (1865-66)
Crying (1865-66)
The most famous paintings by Edward Coley Burne-Jones

The famous English artist has created many wonderful works of art. And yet, the most famous paintings by Edward Coley Burne-Jones rightfully include:

  • “The Merciful Knight” (1863) according to the artist himself, his most successful work, created in the early period of creativity. The master portrayed a knight who forgave the murderer of his brother, and Jesus blessing the hero for his noble deed.
  • Love Among the Ruins (1873 and 1894) is a work with a unique destiny. The first version, written by the master in watercolor, was seriously damaged on the eve of the exhibition by mistake of the organizers. Upon learning of this, the painter created a second version with oil paints, and later the original itself was restored by restorers.
  • The Golden Staircase (1880) is a painting depicting many young women musicians descending the steps. The prototypes of the heroines were real persons from among the painter’s friends.
  • “The King of Cofetua and the Beggar” (1884) is a work for which the master was awarded the Order of the Legion of Honor at a prestigious exhibition in Paris.
Other paintings by the artist
Coley Burne-Jones. Geirgiana Burn-Jones
Geirgiana Burn-Jones
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis
Lady Francis Balfour
Lady Francis Balfour
Love leading the pilgrim
Love leading the pilgrim
Lovers among the ruins
Lovers among the ruins
Margaret Burn-Jones
Margaret Burn-Jones
Psyche's Wedding (1895)
Psyche’s Wedding (1895)
Rose heart
Rose heart
Song of Love (1868-77)
Song of Love (1868-77)
The cycle of paintings Sleeping Beauty (6 paintings; 1871-90)
The cycle of paintings Sleeping Beauty (6 paintings; 1871-90)
Mirror of Venus (1870-76)
Mirror of Venus (1870-76)