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 Dante Gabriel Rossetti  (1828 - 1882)

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About: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
 

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Lived/Active: England      Known for: religious and allegorical painting, idealized women

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

A painter and poet, Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a key member of the Pre-Raphaelites in England, a group of painters and poets led by Rossetti, John Ruskin, William Holman Hunt and John Millais.  Their aesthetic goal was to return to a medieval period, 'pre Raphael', meaning before the influence of the painter Raphael (1483-1520) and to re-vitalize the medieval focus on religion and realism that held closely to nature.

Rossetti was born to the exiled Italian scholar, Gabriel Rossetti, and was the brother of Christina Rossetti, a prominent poet.  Dante Rosetti became a student from 1845 to 1847 at the Royal Academy Antique School, and there began the association with Hunt and Millais.  Rossetti's early pre-Raphaelite paintings had religious and mystical symbolism, but criticism of his painting, led him to show his paintings in private circumstances and to do watercolors instead of oils.  His primary theme became romantic love, and in many of his works, he depicted his wife, Elizabeth Siddal, whom he married in 1860.  However, two years later she died.

He spent his last years in seclusion, apparently depressed by public criticism of his poetry and paintings and by personal experiences including complications with women and drugs mixed with alcohol to combat insomnia .


Sources include:
Grace Glueck, "Art: The American Pre-Raphelites", The New York Times, October 11, 2006
http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/rossetti/
http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/dgr/dgrseti13.html

Biography from South Coast Fine Art:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Painter and poet, Rossetti was one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  Although the movement was on the wane by the mid-1850s, new disciples Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris brought with them fresh enthusiasm.

Rosetti was born in London, the son of the poet Gabriele Rossetti (1783-1854), and Frances Mary Lavinia Polidori Rossetti, sister of Byron's physician, Dr. John Polidori.  Thus Rossetti's background was essentially Italian.  As a child he steeped himself in romantic literature.  From 1836 to 1843, he studied at the King's College School, London.  Between the years 1843 and 1846, he attended Cary's Art Academy, and entered the Royal Academy in 1848, where he spent an unfruitful period.  In the same year he founded with John Everett Millais, Holman Hunt, and others the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The three men were one in their rejection of Victorian materialism. They admired the works of early Italian artists and wanted to bring back into art a pre-Renaissance purity of style and form.

For many years Rossetti was known as a painter.  He idealized his subjects, employing the literary themes of medieval romances to do so.  The art critic Ruskin started to buy his painting, and Rossetti's reputation as an artist finally began to spread.

In most of Rossetti's early pictures his archetypal ladies were based upon his wife, the beautiful Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal.  He had met her in 1850, and they married in 1860 when she was already in poor health.  He encouraged her own painting and also writing.  She modeled for him and many others in his circle - perhaps the most impressive portrait is the drowned Ophelia in Millais's painting.  After his wife died of an overdose of laudanum in 1862, Rossetti buried the only complete manuscript of his poems with her.  The manuscript was later recovered and published in 1870.  It included most of his best verse and established his reputation as a poet. Although Rossetti had not been a faithful to Elizabeth, her loss left an increasing sadness in his work.

Though he was admired by a younger generation of aesthetes such as Oscar Wilde, Rossetti's later years were clouded by health problems, morbidity and paranoia.  From 1869 to 1871, he painted his last important picture, Dante's Dream.  In 1872 he attempted suicide.  Before his death at the age of fifty-three in 1882, he published Poems and Ballads and Sonnets (1881). The latter completed 'The House of Life', which had appeared eleven years earlier.

Sources:
Dante Gabriel Rossetti : His Friends and Enemies by Helen Rossetti Angeli(1977); Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Painter and Man of Letters by Frank V. Rutter (1978);
Life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti by Joseph Knight (1987); Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Poet and Painter by Eben E. Bass(1990); Critical Essays on Dante Gabriel Rossetti, ed. by David G. Riede (1992); Dante Gabriel Rossetti Revisited by David G. Riede(1992); Dante Gabriel Rossetti by Alicia Craig Faxon(1994); Dante Gabriel Rossetti by Russell Ash (1995); Rossetti and His Circle by Elizabeth Prettejohn (1998); Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the Game That Must Be Lost by Jerome J. McGann (2000)

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