If you happen to find yourself in London this Fall and if you have a romantic inclination you could do no better than going to the Tate Britain to attend the Edward Burne-Jones exhibition running from 24 October until 24 February 2019. Made up of more than 150 works including stained glass and tapestry, many designed for his friend and fellow social reformer William Morris, as well as portraits, gifts he made for family and friends, and a piano painted inside and out with scenes from the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, the centrepiece will be some of his most ambitious projects, the Briar Rose and Perseus cycles of paintings.
The Briar Rose paintings – each almost 3 metres long, illustrating the fairytale with the artist’s daughter, Margaret, as Sleeping Beauty – are still in the house for which they were bought in 1890. For the first time they are being loaned with the decorative panels Burne-Jones created to link the paintings on the walls of the Georgian saloon.
The client for the Perseus cycle had a harder time: the 26-year-old MP and future prime minister Arthur Balfour was required to block up windows and change doors to make room for a 10-painting telling of the Greek hero Perseus’s rescue of Andromeda. This exhibition marks the first time that the two cycles of paintings will be exhibited together.
Burne-Jones was a charter member of the Pre-Raphaelites a society determined to restore what they saw as the best art. Although Burne-Jones’s dreamy-eyed maidens and muscular heroes in melancholy romantic settings became some of the best-loved paintings in British art and influenced generations of artists including Pablo Picasso, this will be the first large exhibition in London in decades and the first at the Tate since 1933, the centenary of his birth. Many loans are from private collectors, including the Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.