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Dante Gabriel Rossetti

English Pre-Raphaelite Painter and Poet

Dante Gabriel Rossetti Photo

Born: 12 May 1828 - London, England

Died: 9 April 1882 - Kent, England

"Beauty without the beloved is like a sword through the heart"

Summary of Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Recognized by history as an inspired but provocative nonconformist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti made his name initially as a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The Brotherhood challenged the "decadent" indulgences of the day by looking for inspiration and religious guidance in medieval art. Rather than produce dramatic historical narratives (as was the fashion of the day), The Brotherhood adhered to an inflexible set of puritanical and aesthetic standards of which Rossetti soon tired. He continued to paint his mythical parables with the same luminosity and attention to the finest picture detail, but Rossetti, who harboured longings to be recognised also the poet, became all-consumed with the idea of female beauty. His licentious lifestyle, though condemned by many of his colleagues, breathed erotic life, and it must be said, genuine personality, into his art. But with time, his destructive lifestyle led to his mental decline, but as often happens with after some time, this merely enhanced his legend as a prodigious maverick of the Victorian age.

Key Ideas

As a leading light in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood movement, Rossetti looked back to a period before the High Renaissance. He took inspiration in the purity and symbolism of medieval and religious fables found in 15th-century Florentine and Sienese painting
Rossetti is recognized predominantly as a portraitist. His preference was for religious subject-matter but as he matured as an artist his work proved most divisive because of his habit of using family members and lovers to represent holy icons.
Rossetti was a founding member of the furnishing and decoration business, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. The company, established in 1861, was admired for their complex and vivacious designs. Though he soon lost interest in decorative arts, and though his relationship with William Morris suffered as a result, Rossetti's designs stand as a tangible link between the Pre-Raphaelites Brotherhood and Morris's Arts and Crafts movement.
In his later life, Rossetti had wanted to abandon art and pursue his life-long ambition of becoming a poet in the mould of his idols Dante (his namesake), Byron and Keats. However, his published collection was considered by critics to be too verbose and this setback was thought to have contributed to a slowing in his artistic output, and was cited indeed, as a catalyst for his drug addiction and mental deterioration.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti Photo

Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti was born in May 1828 to Italian emigres living in London. The boy's father, Gabriel Pasquale Giuseppe Rossetti, was a scholar - he was Professor of Italian at Kings College from 1831 - and poet who had been exiled from Italy for his support for revolutionary nationalism. His English-Italian mother, Frances Mary Poldari, was the daughter of an exiled noble Italian scholar who, in addition to her maternal duties, enjoyed a career as a private teacher. The rich literary and cultural background of the couple saw that their passion for learning was passed down to all four their children: Gabriel, Christina, William and Maria. The children were practicing Anglicans but carried with them something of their father's Catholic worldview.

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