Dante Gabriel Rossetti
self portrait courtsey
Art Renewal Center
I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.
By Dante Gabriel Rossetti -- "Sudden Light"
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (name at birth Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti), Poet, painter and designer,
born May 12, 1828 in London, UK,
the son of Gabriele Rossetti the exiled Italian patriot, poet, scholar, and
revolutionary and Frances Polidori Rossetti. The poet Christina Rossetti was his sister. His younger brother,
William Michael Rossetti was an
art critic, and the main chronicler of the life and times of the
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He married the daughter of Ford Madox
Dante showed literary
talent early, winning acclaim for his poem "The Blessed Damozel" (1847)
before he was 20 years old. As a student at the Royal Academy Antique
School, from 1845 to 1847, he met William Holman Hunt and John Millais, with
whom he launched the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848,
which aimed to return to
pre-Renaissance art forms involving vivid color and detail.
He then studied
for a short time with Madox Brown, before transferring his allegiance
to Holman Hunt.
During the late 1850's criticism of his paintings caused him to
withdraw from public exhibitions and turn to watercolors in which he
felt that his shortcomings of technique were less apparent and could be
sold privately. Many of
his pictures at this time, concerned his lifelong fascination with
His early work was on religious themes, such as ‘The Annunciation’
(1850, Tate, London); his later manner became more secular, and
more ornate in style,
Romantic love was Rossetti's main theme in both poetry and painting.
In the early 1850s he met Elizabeth Siddal, the model for Millais
famous picture Ophelia. She became his lover, and after an on-off
relationship he married her in 1860, she was already very ill.
Rossetti made many pencil drawings of
Lizzie, which are extremely beautiful, and sensitive. In 1862, after
the still birth of their child, Lizzie committed suicide by taking
an overdose of laudanum. The grief-stricken Rossetti, had a manuscript
version of his poems buried with his wife. In 1862 he produced the
famous picture Beata Beatrix, nominally a Dantesque picture, but in
reality a tribute to his dead wife, who was quite obviously the model,
painted from memory.
Following this trauma, he moved to a house in Cheyne Walk.
where he lived for the most of the rest of his life.
Rossetti acquired an obsession for exotic animals and lived in a
curious fashion, with a menagerie of wild animals in his garden. His
main companion was Fanny Cornforth, a basic cockney girl.
Rossetti's depiction of women became almost obsessively stylized.
He tended to portray his new lover Fanny Cornforth as the epitome
of physical eroticism, whilst another of his mistresses Jane Burden,
the wife of his business partner William Morris, was glamorized as an
In the late 1860s, Rossetti had his
wife's body exhumed, to recover his poems. (This unhappily
bizarre event along with the savage critical attacks on his poetry
may have contributed to his mental problems, which
ultimately destroyed him).
He collated and publishing these poems in 1871. They created a
controversy. They were attacked as the epitome of the "fleshly school
of poetry". The eroticism and sensuality of the poems caused offense.
One poem, "Nuptial Sleep", described a couple falling asleep after sex.
This was part of Rossetti's sonnet sequence The House of Life, a
complex series of poems tracing the physical and spiritual development
of an intimate relationship.
The death of his wife in 1862, and adverse
criticism of his poetry, turned him into a recluse, but Ballads
and Sonnets (1881) contains some of his best work.
Rossetti also typically wrote sonnets for his pictures, such as
"Astarte Syraica". As a designer, he worked with William Morris to
produce images for stained glass and other decorative devices.
For most of the last twenty
years of his life Rossetti became increasingly obsessed with Jane Morris,
the wife of his friend William Morris. His pictures were of lone women, sumptuously
colored, in luxurious, but often claustrophobic surroundings.
Most of these pictures had as their model, a stylized Jane Morris.
In the 1870s Rossetti became addicted to ether (chloral), a narcotic, and
Jane Morris broke with him, plagued by his drug addiction and his
increasing mental instability, he started to lose his
reason. His health broken, he died at Birchington-on-Sea at the country
house of a friend on Easter
Obituary - Dante Gabriel Rossetti
A Sea Spell
To view more of Dante Gabriel Rossetti poems:
For more detailed info on Dante Gabriel Rossetti visit:
Victorian Art in Britain
Some more of his poems includes:
Antiphony, Ardour And Memory,
Aspecta Medusa (For A Drawing),
Ballad Of Dead Ladies,
The Choice: 01,
The Choice: 02,
The Choice: 03,
Cloud And Wind,
The Cloud Confines,
Dark Day, A
The Dark Glass, The
Day Of Love, A
Equal Troth ,
Farewell To The Glen,
From Dawn To Noon,
Genius In Beauty,
He And I,
Heart Of The Night,
Heart’s Compass ,
The Hill Summit,
The House of Life: Introductory Sonnet,
Known In Vain,
The Lamp’s Shrine,
Last Fire ,
Life The Beloved ,
Little While, A,
Lost On Both Sides,
Love And Hope,
Love Enthroned ,
Love’s Last Gift,
Love-Moon, The ,
The Lovers’ Walk,
Mary’s Girlhood (For A Picture),
The Morrow’s Message,
My Sister’s Sleep,
Old And New Art,
[Poet's Corner Index]
Reference, Research and Source Information
Art Renewal Center
Victorian Art in Britain
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