“It is beautiful, the world, and life itself. I am glad I have lived.” ~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (pronunciation) was born on May 12, 1828, in London, England to Gabriele Rossetti and Frances Polidori. His father was a political exile from Sardinia, Italy, and his mother was an Englishwoman of Swiss descent. He had one brother, and two sisters, one of whom was Christina Rossetti, a poet and writer.
Rossetti was educated at home by his parents until he was ten years old when he began attending King’s College School. He showed a talent for drawing and music early on and also developed an interest in poetry. From 1841 to 1845 he enrolled at the Sass Academy in London to study art.
In 1848, Rossetti met William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, who were to become two of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The three young artists shared a commitment to returning to the detailed realism of late medieval and early Renaissance painters, as well as a rejection of the materialism and utilitarianism of the Victorian age.
The Pre-Raphaelites Brotherhood
The Pre-Raphaelites created art with an abundance of beautiful details and rich colors. They believed that the art and compositions of Raphael and the artists after him had a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art. Their work was intended to gain emotional and spiritual impact through careful and precise use of color, light, and shade.
The Brotherhood disbanded in 1853, but Rossetti and Hunt continued to work together on occasion. Rossetti also began experimenting with different artistic mediums, including watercolors and etchings. He also started collecting medieval and Renaissance art, which would prove to be a major influence on his work.
Rossetti’s poetry began to attract attention in the 1860s, and 1862, he published The Blessed Damozel and Other Poems, a collection of devotional lyrics inspired by medieval and Renaissance art. The poems were not well-received and critics savagely attacked them.
Death and Disappointments
The death of his wife, the brutal criticism of his poetry, and other disappointments led to a downward spiral in his life including a mental breakdown and substance abuse.
Rossetti’s health began to decline in the 1870s, and he became increasingly reclusive. He continued to write poetry and paint, but only produced a small number of works during this period. He died on April 9, 1882, at the age of 53.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti is best remembered for painting beautiful women with long, flowing hair in dreamlike settings and bringing the Pre-Raphaelite movement to prominence. Rossetti’s most significant contribution to art was his innovative portrayal of feminine beauty, which broke from traditional standards and helped create new styles of painting.
The Pre-Raphaelites: Their Lives and Works in 500 Images: A study of the artists, their lives and context, with 500 images, and a gallery showing 300 of their most iconic paintingsMeet the Artist: The Pre-Raphaelites: An Art Activity Book (Tate Meet the Artist)The Pre-Raphaelites: Romance and Realism (Abrams Discoveries)