Dante Gabriel Rossetti

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Rossetti, Dante Gabriel

(dăn`tē gā`brēəl rōsĕt`ē), 1828–82, English poet and painter; son of Gabriele RossettiRossetti, Gabriele
, 1783–1854, Italian poet and critic; father of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and of Christina Rossetti. Exiled in 1821, he fled first to Malta, where he stayed for three years, and then to England, where he lived until his death.
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 and brother of Christina RossettiRossetti, Christina Georgina
, 1830–94, English poet; daughter of Gabriele Rossetti and sister of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Publication of some of her poems in her brother William's magazine the Germ was her only contribution to Pre-Raphaelite activities.
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. He attended the Royal Academy and studied painting briefly with Ford Madox BrownBrown, Ford Madox,
1821–93, English historical painter, b. Calais, France. Although closely affiliated with the Pre-Raphaelites in London, he never joined the brotherhood. Examples of his paintings are Work (1852–63; Manchester Art Gall.
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. In 1848 he became acquainted with W. Holman HuntHunt, William Holman,
1827–1910, English painter. Hunt was a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood and one of its most conscientious exponents. His paintings are often crude in color and laborious in technique, but are completely sincere in their devotion to
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 and John Everett MillaisMillais, Sir John Everett
, 1829–96, English painter. A prodigy, he began studying at the Royal Academy at the age of 11. In 1848, together with William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, he initiated the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
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 and with them formed the brotherhood of Pre-RaphaelitesPre-Raphaelites
, brotherhood of English painters and poets formed in 1848 in protest against what they saw as the low standards and decadence of British art. The principal founders were D. G. Rossetti, W.
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. In an effort to spread their ideas the group published in 1850 a short-lived magazine, the Germ, edited by Rossetti's brother William Michael Rossetti (1829–1919). In it was printed "The Blessed Damozel" by Dante Gabriel, written when he was 19 and considered by many to be his best poem. In 1851, John RuskinRuskin, John,
1819–1900, English critic and social theorist. During the mid-19th cent. Ruskin was the virtual dictator of artistic opinion in England, but Ruskin's reputation declined after his death, and he has been treated harshly by 20th-century critics.
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 championed the Pre-Raphaelites, and shortly thereafter made an arrangement with Rossetti to buy all of Rossetti's paintings that pleased him; thus, Rossetti became financially solvent.

In 1860 he married his model and muse, Elizabeth Siddal, a former milliner's assistant whom he had been more or less engaged to for nearly 10 years. Melancholic and tubercular, she took an overdose of laudanum and died in 1862. Rossetti, in a fit of guilt and grief, buried with her a manuscript containing a number of his poems. Some years later he permitted her body to be exhumed and the poems recovered. The first edition of his collected works appeared in 1870. The last years of his life were marked by an increasingly morbid state of mind (he became addicted to alcohol and chloral), and for a time he was considered insane.

Although he began his career as a painter, Rossetti's reputation has long rested mainly upon his poetry. His paintings are deeply colored and sensuous. His earliest oils, such as The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849, Tate Gall.) were of a religious and mystical nature. Typical of his later paintings are idealized portraits of flowing-haired women, e.g., Proserpine (1874, Tate Gall.), and images of Arthurian or medieval romance, e.g., Music (1862, Victoria and Albert Mus.). He also painted watercolors, as deep in color as his oils, with his characteristic range of subject matter. His best artistic efforts are probably his drawings, particularly the pen-and-ink portraits of his mother, sister, wife, and friends.

Almost inseparable in tone and feeling from his paintings, his poetry is noted for its pictorial effects and its atmosphere of luxurious beauty. Although there is always passion in his verse, there is also always thought. He was a master of the sonnet form, and his sonnet sequence "The House of Life" is one of his finest works. His other notable works include the ballad "Sister Helen" and the dramatic monologues "Jenny" and "A Last Confession." His translations from the Italian appeared as Dante and His Circle (1861).

Bibliography

See his poems (ed. by O. Doughty, 1957); catalog raisonné of his paintings and drawings (ed. by V. Surtees, 2 vol., 1972); biographies by O. Doughty (2d ed. 1963), E. Waugh (1928, repr. 1969), and A. Faxon (1989); studies by S. A. Brooke (1908, repr. 1964), G. H. Fleming (1967), R. S. Fraser, ed. (1972), J. Rees (1981), and D. G. Riede (1983).

Rossetti, Dante Gabriel

 

(real name, Gabriel Dante Rossetti). Born May 12, 1828, in London; died Apr. 9, 1882, in Birchington-on-Sea, Kent. English painter and poet, one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. Son of G. Rossetti.

Rossetti studied in London at Sass’ drawing school (from 1843) and at the Academy of Arts (from 1845). He later studied with F. M. Brown. Rejecting the art of his day as vulgarly prosaic, Rossetti turned to Italian primitive painting as his source of inspiration. He borrowed themes from Italian medieval and Early Renaissance poetry (especially that of Dante), medieval legends and chronicles, and the works of the English romantics.

Rossetti endowed his works with a certain sensuousness and, at the same time, with elements of mysticism (for example, the painting The Girlhood of the Virgin, 1849, Tate Gallery, London; the poem “The Blessed Damozel,” 1850). His paintings, which were almost unfailingly depictions of women, paradoxically combine the intense feelings of his heroines with static and frozen poses and gestures. The figures are given three-dimensionality, yet the background is decorative, often with floral ornamentation, and executed in brilliant colors and delicate lines that in many ways anticipated the art nouveau style (for example, Beata Beatrix, 1863, Tate Gallery, London; Dante’s Dream, 1870–71, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool).

Rossetti’s poetry is noted for its lively and vivid imagery, fluid language, and precise metaphors. It is marked by unexpected associations and vivid detail (for example, the collections Poems, 1870; Ballads and Sonnets, vols. 1–2, 1881). A number of Rossetti’s poems are devoted to the Italian people’s struggle for liberation.

Rossetti illustrated and designed many books. He and W. Morris designed wall panels and stained-glass windows. Rossetti also produced a number of monumental decorative paintings.

WORKS

Collected Works, vols. 1–2. London, 1890.
The Complete Poetical Works. Boston, 1903.
Letters, vols. 1–4. Oxford, 1965–67.
In Russian translation:
In the book Antologiia novoi angliiskoipoezii. Leningrad, 1937.

REFERENCES

Istoriia angliiskoi literatury, vol. 3. Moscow, 1958. Pages 23–28.
Johnston, R. D. D. G. Rossetti. New York, 1969.
Surtees, V. The Paintings and Drawings of D. G. Rossetti, vols. 1–2. Oxford, 1971.

T. I. VOLODINA

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