Top critical review
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Solid and dependable, but lacking the analytical view
on 14 January 2013
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.