Always Popular: "Hope"

English Sepia Print of Edward Burne-Jones's "Hope" 1896 (LEO Design)

Edward Burne-Jones intended to become a churchman, studying theology at Oxford College where he met William Morris. The two men—and a few others—created a "brotherhood" of ideas and aesthetics, eventually publishing a periodical called the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine. They were influenced by Aestheticism—the philosophy that art should be appreciated for its beauty alone, no moral lesson or message required—and developed an affinity for Ruskin, Tennyson and the Middle Ages. They were also influenced by the artistic philosophy of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (founded 1848), especially painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Soon, Burne-Jones abandoned his religious calling and joined William Morris in founding a decorative arts studio, manufacturer and design firm which later would be called Morris and Company. Burne-Jones pursued his painting but also worked on ceramic tiles, tapestry, mosaics and jewelry. He also played an influential role in the Nineteenth Century renaissance of English stained glass work—and his designs grace churches throughout England (plus a few halls at Oxford College).

Like the earlier painters in the Pre-Raphaelite movement, Burne-Jones embraced lush detail, intense color, complex compositions and the use of Medieval themes, costumes and aesthetics. Pre-Raphaelite "reformers" insisted that good artwork only comes from a thorough study of nature—and its accurate representation.

The English print, shown above, is a sepia rendition of Burne-Jones's painting "Hope" (painted in 1896, now hanging in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). It was commissioned by a patron living in industrial Massachusetts. Burne-Jones based the oil painting on a watercolor he had painted some 25 years earlier—a trio symbolizing the Virtues "Faith, Hope and Charity" which had been translated into stained glass. The personified virtue, reminiscent of a Botticelli subject, is dressed in Renaissance costume and raises her hand heavenward—despite the bars on her window and the shackle on her leg. In her arm, she cradles a branch of apple blossoms, the symbol of hope. The print, possibly originally purchased at an exhibit of the painting, is framed in fumed English oak. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.


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