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Dante Gabriel Rossetti (British painter) 1828 - 1882

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was an English poet, illustrator, painter and translator. He founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, and was later to be the main inspiration for a second generation of artists and writers influenced by the movement, most notably William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. His work also influenced the European Symbolists and was a major precursor of the Aesthetic movement. Rossetti's art was characterised by its sensuality and its medieval revivalism. His early poetry was influenced by John Keats. His later poetry was characterised by the complex interlinking of thought and feeling, especially in his sonnet sequence The House of Life. Poetry and image are closely entwined in Rossetti's work; he frequently wrote sonnets to accompany his pictures, spanning from The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849) and Astarte Syriaca (1877), while also creating art to illustrate poems such as Goblin Market by the celebrated poet Christina Rossetti, his sister. In the early 1850s he met Elizabeth Siddal, the model for Millais famous picture Ophelia. She became his lover, & after an on-off relationship he married her in 1860, when she was already very ill, probably with tuberculosis. Rossetti made many pencil drawings of Lizzie, which are extremely beautiful, & sensitive. In 1862, after the still birth of their child, Lizzie committed suicide by taking an overdose of laudanum. The grief-stricken Rossetti, had a manuscript version of his poems buried with his wife. In 1862 he produced the famous picture Beata Beatrix, nominally a Dantesque picture, but in reality a tribute to his dead wife, who was quite obviously the model for Beatrix. Following this trauma, he moved to a house in Cheyne Walk, where he lived for the most of the rest of his life. He lived in a curious fashion, with a menagerie of wild animals in his garden. His main companion was Fanny Cornforth, a basic cockney girl, & your archetypal “tart with a heart.” In the late 1860s, Rossetti had his wife's body exhumed, to recover his poems. From this unhappy, & bizarre event, the mental problems, which ultimately destroyed him, are most likely to have come. Rossetti became increasingly obsessed with Jane Morris, nee Burden, the wife of his friend William Morris. For most of the last twenty years of his life, his pictures were of lone women, sumptuously coloured, in luxurious, but often claustrophobic surroundings. Most of these pictures had as their model, a stylised Jane Morris. In the 1870s Rossetti became addicted to chloral ( a narcotic), & alcohol, & Jane Morris broke with him, as he started to lose his reason. His health broken, he died at Birchington-on-Sea at Easter 1882. His younger brother, William Michael Rossetti 1829-1919 was an art critic, & the main chronicler of the life & times of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He married the daughter of Ford Madox Brown.

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