The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

June 17, 2013

June 17, 1898

Edward Burne-Jones, (August 28, 1833 to June 17, 1898) , the son of a frame-maker, met William Morris at Oxford and their association as members of the artistic movement called the Pre-Raphaelites was a definitive theme in Victorian art.

In her biography, A Circle Of Sisters: Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne-Jones, Agnes Poynter and Louisa Baldwin (2001) 
 Judith Flanders. describes Burne-Jones as charming and selfish. An incident she describes involves a street scene with a friend who chides Burne-Jones for giving money to a beggar. He insists they are faking their poverty. Burne-Jones replied, "I have seen worse shows for " --the same amount of money donated. 

When the ambitions of  William Morris grew to include socialism, Burne-Jones saw no need to disturb himself to change a society which rewarded him with a comfortable life.  Changing artistic tastes led to neglect of these artists: In 1933 the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, a nephew of Burne-Jones, spoke of his uncle's significance in this manner:

In my view, what he did for us common people was to open, as never had been opened before, magic casements of a land of faery in which he lived throughout his life ... It is in that inner world we can cherish in peace, beauty which he has left us and in which there is peace at least for ourselves.

Baldwin sounds defensive and at a loss for words to defend the culturally significant. 
However, both Morris and Burne-Jones have secure places in the history of art. From my perspective that would be because of Morris's wallpaper and Burne-Jones's stained glass church windows. But my tastes are narrow. I wouldn't credit the Pre-Raphaelistes for much at all, were it not for Burne-Jones's cats. These drawings rise gloriously above the standard Pre-Raphaelite product:

Self-Caricature, Painting, with Cat, 1891, ink on paper, which I found at Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, on loan to the University of Delaware Library. You must scroll down at this link. 

And this is at wikipedia--

What else is there to say? 

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