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The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination Paperback – 6 Sep 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (6 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571228623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571228621
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 5 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 270,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Generously illustrated with paintings, stained glass and photographs of the leading characters ... Fiona MacCarthy has brought [Burne-Jones] vividly to life. --The Economist

This magnificent and deeply felt biography brings with it a sense of completion, not least in its account of one of the greatest and most fruitful Victorian friendships. --Rosemary Hill, Guardian

A true pleasure to read - a triumph of biographical art. --Jan Marsh, Independent Book of the Week

'Her scholarship is exemplary; her style fluent; her judgement discriminating; above all, she makes her galère come vividly alive. Her book is fun to read.' --Philip Ziegler, Spectator

A true pleasure to read - a triumph of biographical art.' -- Jan Marsh, Independent Book of the Week >> 'Don t imagine that you re going to be stuck in some vaporous realm of medieval valour or religious piety. This is a far more human story ... sets Burne-Jones at the heart of his era with convincing imaginary force and widely encompassing scholarly range.' -- Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times >> 'Wonderful ... This is the perfect coming together of biographer and subject.' -- Michael Holroyd, Guardian >> 'A terrific study . . . MacCarthy writes so energetically that she caught me up in her enthusiasm.' -- Frank Whitford, Sunday Times >> 'The book that I am hoping to find in my Christmas stocking ... I have enjoyed all Fiona MacCarthy s biographies and I cannot believe that this will disappoint.' -- --AN Wilson, Observer

'Her scholarship is exemplary; her style fluent; her judgement discriminating; above all, she makes her galère come vividly alive. Her book is fun to read.' --Philip Ziegler, Spectator

A true pleasure to read - a triumph of biographical art. --Jan Marsh, Independent Book of the Week

'The best real biography I read this year ... a masterpiece of control.' -- James Ferguson, TLS >> 'A narrative feat which gives a detailed account of the Victorian immersion in its great lake of sentiment, mystic feelings and good cheer, and in the period waters of duality.' --Karl Miller, TLS

A true pleasure to read - a triumph of biographical art. --Jan Marsh, Independent Book of the Week

'Edward Burne-Jones has found a worthy chronicler in Fiona MacCarthy, who masterly biography does not miss a trick.' -- Sunday Telegraph<br /<>br >
'Enjoyable biography [which has been] issued as a paperback of rare quality. The book's vivacity and splendid illustrations are on a scale appropriate to this restless, multi-faceted genius.' --Independent

Book Description

The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination by Fiona MacCarthy is a wonderful evocation of highly celebrated period of art history from the acclaimed author of William Morris.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 62 people found the following review helpful By A. D. Smith on 13 Sept. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When it was announced that one of our greatest writers of biography, Fiona MacCarthy, was preparing a biography of Edward Burne-Jones there were many who waited eagerly for its publication - the book, which took 6 years to write, does not disappoint. Indeed, it is probably one of the very best biographies in our time of an artist, of the same insightful quality as the author's own prize-winning biography of William Morris William Morris: A Life for Our Time. It is fitting that it is Fiona MacCarthy who now tells us about the other side of a friendship, between Morris and Burne-Jones, which began when they met as students in Oxford. It is no exaggeration to say that this friendship completely changed the face of English art and design. Although she asserts early in the book that Burne-Jones was the greater artist while Morris was `unarguably the greater man', by the time that you finish this book you realise that this is only a relative judgement because Burne-Jones was also a great man. He was much loved and admired: Kipling said `He was more to me than any man here... The man was a God to me.'; Henry James said `He was a wonderfully nice creature'; and the American poet Emma Lazarus considered him `so gentle, so kind and earnest and so full of poetry and imagination that he shines out of all the people I have seen, with a sort of glamour of his own.'
But Burne-Jones was a very private man and a challenge to a biographer. Luckily, his devoted wife Georgiana wrote a wonderful, sensitive and loyal account of him soon after he died
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mr. T. Harvey on 14 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a thorough, well researched biography. We are taken chronologically through Burne-Jones' life, with all the major events described and the contemporaries he encountered.

And yet, something is missing. The first is context. The author, Fiona MacCarthy, does not really make clear the impact Burne-Jones' paintings had when they were first exhibited; it really is not enough to say they were a reaction against the crass materialism of the age. The phrase 'Victorian imagination' is used in the biography's sub-title, yet we are told little about what constitutes this 'imagination'.

Secondly, we are not given enough information about the paintings themselves, more particularly the techniques Burne-Jones used.

The list of sources consulted runs to five pages, yet one of the most intriguing ones, the record of conversations between Burne-Jones and his assistant Thomas Rooke, receives scant attention in the text. It might also have been interesting to read MacCarthy's views on why Burne-Jones took so long to finish his paintings, sometimes spending years on a canvas without completing it.

Enjoyable, but it needed more analysis.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By loppy on 13 Nov. 2011
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book because I had recently read the author's biography of William Morris, which I loved, so I leaped at the chance to read about his life long friend, Burne-Jones. I have given the book five stars although I did not warm to it as much as I did to the William Morris volume, because I personally prefer Morris, who is in some ways more straightforward and/or did not leave so many clues to his personal feelings. However, on finishing the book I felt I had gained insight into Burne-Jones himself (and liked him better), plus insight into the times he lived in and another context for Morris in the person and life of his best friend who was yet so different from him. The book paints a picture of the era without ever losing sight of the fact that it is about one man's trajectory through it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER on 22 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback
Burne-Jones sought lifelong escapism into the world of mythical romance as a reaction to the ugliness of a childhood in industrial Birmingham. When his deep friendship with William Morris was finally fractured by the latter's involvement with active socialism, Burne Jones wrote of his desire to take refuge in the artistic work which he could control.

He had some strokes of luck: Rossetti found commissions for him to design stained glass - often for the very wealthy industrialists responsible for the world he hated; Ruskin paid for a couple of trips to Italy where he discovered at that time little-known painters such as Botticelli or Piero della Francesca who were to influence his work, and despite his uncertain income Burne-Jones seems to have been welcomed by her parents as a fiancé for Georgie Macdonald. His repayment for her loyalty was a steamy affair with the flamboyant Greek artist Maria Zambaco, the muse for some of his most famous paintings, as were also some of the pale and interesting younger women with whom he liked to flirt. Highly successful and made a baronet in his lifetime, Burne Jones was a prolific artist, despite his disorganised approach.

It is understandable that Fiona MacCarthy's encyclopaedic knowledge, the result of six year's spent researching Byrne-Jones, led her to produce a work of 536 pages, excluding notes, so heavy that it splits at the seams as you read it (although a Kindle version is available) but I found it on balance a laborious slog not only because of the length but also the structure. The decision to base each chapter on a different location linked to the artist's life in chronological order leads to a fragmentation of themes and repetition of some points.
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