Edward Burne-Jones produced a vast amount of work throughout his career. He achieved great success in his day and was influential on a number of movements such as the French Symbolists. There is a sensuous beauty in his finest works, and it is this which ensures his work continues to be popular. Edward Coley Burne-Jones was born in Birmingham on August 28, 1833; his mother, Elizabeth Coley, died only a few days later. Through his father Edward Jones, a frame-maker, and other relatives, Edward Burne-Jones was able to develop his natural gift for drawing, although he had little or no formal tuition before leaving King Edward VI School, Birmingham, to enter Exeter College, Oxford, in 1853. At the age of 11, the young Edward Burne-Jones was admitted to King Edward VI School. According to King Edward's School's archives, he was regularly at the top of his class and won many prizes, particularly for mathematics. He also showed a talent for drawing - including caricatures of his teachers.
In 1853, Edward Burne-Jones went up to Exeter College, Oxford, and it was here he met William Morris. At that time, both men intended to go into the Church but, after a tour of northern France in 1855, Edward Burne-Jones decided to become a painter and William Morris to train as an architect. Both left Oxford without graduating. In 1956, Edward Burne-Jones left Oxford without a degree and moved to London where he studied under Dante Gabriel Rossetti who was to be the prime influence over his career. Dante Gabriel Rossetti gave him a few informal lessons and he attended life drawing classes for a while, but essentially he was self-taught; his taste was more classical than Dante Gabriel Rossetti's and his elongated forms owed much to the example of Botticelli. He favoured medieval and mythical (especially Arthurian) subjects and hated such modernists as the Impressionists, describing their subjects as “landscape and whores”. Known to early friends simply as Jones, he adopted the name of Burne-Jones at about this time. Between 1857 and 1877, Edward Burne-Jones worked on many commissioned paintings. He became famous overnight with the showing of eight large paintings at the opening exhibition of the Grosvenor Gallery. Thereafter he acquired huge fame and prestige, not only in Britain, but also on the continent: he had considerable influence on the French Symbolists, and the ethereally beautiful women who people his paintings, like the more sensuous types of Rossetti, had many imitators at the end of the century. Although he was lauded for his poetic qualities by many critics, some thought his pictures ‘morbid’ and ‘unmanly’.
In 1861, Edward Burne-Jones was a founder member of William Morris's decorative arts company. He designed stained glass, tapestries and tiles, objects which were to play important decorative roles in his paintings. The company closed down in 1875 and two years later with an exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery, Edward Burne-Jones 's work caused a sensation. Working in a style inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites, his paintings depicted medieval and mythical subjects. Ethereally beautiful women and knights in shining armour often featured in his work alongside many Renaissance features. Recurring themes of romance, chivalry, courtly love, the pursuit of beauty and the battle between good and evil grace his work and are evident in pieces such as 'Temperantia' and 'An Angel'. His sensational popular acclaim was echoed in France with works shown at the Exposition Universelle in 1878. An appearance later that year as a witness for Ruskin in the notorious libel case with James McNeill Whistler was a less happy event.