Beauty that’s more than skin deep

Rowan Pelling on why it’s time we em­braced the mad, an­drog­y­nous dream­scapes of un­fash­ion­able Burne-Jones

The Daily Telegraph - Review - - EXHIBITIONS -

To gaze at the preRaphaelite vi­sions of Ed­ward Co­ley Burne-Jones is to en­ter a world beyond time, pol­i­tics and his­tory. In his 19th-cen­tury dream­scapes, the air is heavy and move­ment is sus­pended; fig­ures touch yet don’t con­nect, their eyes down­cast and gazes averted; gen­der iden­ti­ties are con­fused or ob­scured. And ev­ery­thing is re­fined to the point of sen­sory op­pres­sion: these are pictures so coolly, per­fectly beau­ti­ful that they mes­merise and re­pel in the same in­stant.

With its un­mis­tak­ably Vic­to­rian yearn­ing for a nar­ra­tive to counter the re­al­i­ties of in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion, Burne-Jones’s art feels tai­lor-made for a pub­lic crav­ing es­capism – so Tate Bri­tain’s up­com­ing ret­ro­spec­tive of his en­tire oeu­vre, the gallery’s first since 1933, feels well-timed.

The last ma­jor show of its kind in the cap­i­tal was at the Hay­ward Gallery in 1975, when Arthurian leg­end, folk and glam rock, as well as sar­to­rial an­drog­yny, were all in vogue. That same year, David Bowie took a trip to New York and re­turned “very impressed by the trans­ves­tites; they were kind of pre-Raphaelite, there was some­thing about the

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.