The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination

Ruth Bernard Yeazell writes:

In her new biography Fiona MacCarthy describes a series of ‘brilliantly scurrilous cartoons’, now in the British Library, composed in mocking response to Swinburne’s involvement with the flamboyant American actress Adah Menken. Something of this Burne-Jones – the keen joker and caricaturist – can be glimpsed in the many comic sketches reproduced in The Last Pre-Raphaelite. Burne-Jones’s depictions of a curly-headed and rotund Morris turning cartwheels or squatting, back to the viewer, for a demonstration on weaving, are affectionate rather than scurrilous; but like the more uneasy cartoons of huge female forms protruding from overstuffed costumes that he called his ‘Prominent Women’ series, they testify to a fascination with flesh that comes as a surprise to those familiar only with the stylishly elongated figures of his major paintings.

(LRB 9 February 2012)

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