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The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination Hardcover – 1 Sep 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (1 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571228615
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571228614
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 5.4 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 301,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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

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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Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The best biography I have read in a long time. I enjoyed Penelope Fitzgerald's book on Burne-Jones, written over thirty years ago and didn't know how this one would compare, or if it would just go over the same ground. Happily it was as different as could be while covering the same subject. The author obviously had access to additional material and has produced a fast-paced entertaining account of the life and values of one of Victorian England's greatest and most visionary artists. I literally couldn't put it down and was very sorry when I finished it.
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Format: Hardcover
A masterpiece. Clearly this will be the definitive biography of Edward Burne-Jones for many years to come. The result of prodigious and painstaking research, beautifully written and a model of clarity and straightforward writing. Perhaps we would expect nothing less from this wonderful author, Fiona MacCarthy, who already has a number of excellent works to her credit.
The author takes us in a chronological sequence through the different periods of the life of Burne-Jones, often in two or three year sections (apart from the first 19 year section of his childhood in Birmingham). These are characterised by his formative trips abroad, for example to Italy (five trips) or by the various places he lived, The Grange, Fulham or Rottingdean, Sussex, or by circles of interest, for example Little Holland House. Throughout MacCarthy makes us aware of the development of the artistic skill of Burne-Jones and his expanding interests from watercolours, to oils, and, under the influence of his lifelong friend and close collaborator William Morris, stained glass and designs for tapestries. The prodigious output of Burne-Jones must be daunting for any biographer but MacCarthy takes us through this maze carefully highlighting the key works and their inspiration. Despite his horror of social events Burne-Jones had a huge circle of friends and acquaintances and these characters appear and recede as the story progresses but are always well-rounded and real in the narrative. MacCarthy does not balk from dealing with Burne-Jones’ affair with Maria Zambaco or his numerous other infatuations and flirtations with women young and very young but these are never allowed to become overly suggestive or lewd, a clear sense of proportion and appreciation of Victorian values being maintained.
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