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Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Dates: British, 1828 - 1882
Biographical Account:

The painter, poet and translator Dante Gabriel Rossetti was born 12th May 1828 in London to Italian parents. He studied at the Sass’s Drawing Academy in 1842 and in 1845 he attended the Royal Academy Antique Schools.


In 1848 he studied briefly with Ford Madox Brown, where he shared a studio with Holman Hunt. During the same year the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood emerged. The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1848-9) was the first oil painting and the first picture to be exhibited with the initials ‘PRB’, for Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, inscribed on it.


Rossetti was one of the leading figures of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who aimed to bring back the traditions of painting directly from nature and returned to the influences of the great masters of 15th century Italian and Northern painters. According to John Ruskin the leading art critic at the time, Rossetti “was the most important and original artistic force of the nineteenth century in Great Britain”.


Rossetti is best known for his paintings of powerful and mysterious women. He created vibrant watercolours and intricate drawings on themes of love and morality.  He used symbolism and colour to express a mood and to convey the ideas that were important to him - female virtue, beauty, love, and death.


In 1849 Rossetti met the artist and model Elizabeth Siddal, whom, after much hesitance he married in 1860. Just two years after being married, Lizzie Siddal died from an overdose, shortly after giving birth to a still-born daughter. Rossetti never really got over the death of his wife and buried most of his poems with her, which he later retrieved. After Lizzie’s death, Rossetti made many studies of her and she would appear in many of his paintings.


In 1854 Rossetti met John Ruskin, who supported him until for ten years. In 1856 Rossetti became a mentor to Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris.


The stylised depiction of Rossetti's women became an obsession. His new lover Fanny Cornforth was portrayed as the prefect example of physical eroticism, whilst another supposed mistress Jane Burden, who was the wife of his fellow artist William Morris, was glamorised as a fairy-tale goddess.

In the later years he suffered from depression and his health started to decline. He died on 9th April 1882.
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