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Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

*  1828 London
† 1882 London

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was born on May 12, 1828, in London. His father, a professor at King's College, had fled Italy; his mother was a teacher. His parents therefore made sure Rossetti received an excellent education, and as a young child, he also received drawing instruction. He enrolled in the art school Cary's Academy in 1842. Four years later, he was accepted into the Royal Academy. When the instruction did not meet his expectations, he approached the painter Ford Madox Brown about being his teacher. As Brown also fell back on conventional academic teaching methods, Rossetti distanced himself from him. Through the influence of his friends William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, Rossetti decided on painting over poetry as his direction of artistic expression. The friends shared an opinion on the sad state of British art. They named themselves the "Preraffaelites," programmatically distancing themselves from the reigning trend in painting to imitate Raffael. With four other friends including Rossetti's brother, they founded the "Preraffaelite Brotherhood," using the acronym PRB. The early excitement created by the works soon gave way to vehement criticism, which sent Rossetti into a depression. About 1852, the PRB dissolved. In cooperative work with other young artists in 1858, he painted the assembly hall of the Oxford University Union with scenes from the legend of King Arthur. In 1860, Rossetti gave up oil painting and started producing mainly small format water colors, which sold well thanks to the sympathetic art critic John Riskin. In 1860, he married his long-time (since 1850) model Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal. Until her suicide in 1862, this feminine ideal of the Preraffaelites was Rossetti's muse and source of inspiration. From 1871 to 1874, he lived and worked at the country home of his close friend William Morris, with whose wife he had an affair. In 1872, he suffered a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide. After many years of drug consumption, Rossetti died on April 9, 1881, while vacationing in Birchington-on-Sea near Kent. Rossetti's methods distinguished him as an individualist among the Preraffaelites; he showed no interest on the exact representation of details, avoided complicated backgrounds, and tended away from landscapes. His passion was primarily for mythological and literary motives.