'I mean by a picture a beautiful, romantic dream of something that never was, never will be, in a light better than any light that ever shone - in a land no one can define or remember, only desire'
Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) was the prototypical pre-Raphaelite but with a truly individual sensibility. Penelope Fitzgerald's delightful biography charts his life from humble beginnings in Birmingham as the son of an unsuccessful framer, through a transformative period at Oxford, where he met his close friend and collaborator William Morris, and on to the apprenticeship with Dante Gabriel Rossetti that would shape his artistic vision. His work harks back to an Arthurian England - an Arcadia that offered solace against the onset of the Industrial Revolution, and on a deeply personal level provided respite from his ever-present melancholia.
This is an illuminating portrait of a fascinating figure - artistic genius, doting father, troubled husband - written with all Penelope Fitzgerald's characteristic sympathy and insight.