Edward Burne-Jones and Abstract Art

Cupid’s Hunting Fields 1885 by Sir Edward Burne-Jones

Cupid’s Hunting Fields 1885 by Sir Edward Burne-Jones

Collection: The Art Institute of Chicago

 

Edward Burne-Jones created beautiful decorative images. There is always a strong focus on aesthetics. They include realistic subject matter, yet I struggle to see them as solely realistic. When Burne-Jones abstracts the clothing of one of the figures, it’s a stylistic decision that moves him slightly towards abstraction. These modest amounts of abstraction tend to be used to influence the viewer in a specific way. When Burne-Jones moves away from pure realism, he creates a fantasy. He can make everything look softer and more beautiful. He gives us a daydream where we can enjoy the departure from realism. 

Perseus and Andromeda, study for The Doom Fulfilled 1875 by Sir Edward Burne-Jones

Perseus and Andromeda, study for The Doom Fulfilled 1875 by Sir Edward Burne-Jones

Collection: The Art Institute of Chicago

 

The Art Institute of Chicago has a great study that was created for The Doom Fulfilled. This image wasn’t intended to be viewed as a finished piece. The audience of the time would have only seen this image as being an unfinished piece. However, when I look at it through a contemporary lens, I see it differently. It should always be the artist who decides when a work is finished, and I wouldn’t want to go against his choices. Although I want to see this as a finished piece because It’s striking as an abstract and figurative image.  There are swirling abstract shapes, and it’s difficult to know what they will become in the final image. When you haven’t seen The Doom Fulfilled, you can look at this image and enjoy its simplicity. It is an image that wouldn’t look out of place in an exhibition of paintings from Picasso’s blue period.

There are different forms of abstraction, and one of the techniques is to reduce the subject matter down to simpler shapes. Burne-Jones’ artistic process often involved having people model for him, so there is a starting point of observational drawing. In this study, he creates a simplified version.  Abstraction becomes part of the process even though he isn’t aiming for an abstract image.

When you’re creating observational drawings, you tend to notice many different abstract shapes. If you’re struggling to understand how that’s possible, I would suggest that you create a realistic drawing of a crumpled blanket. You will find many interesting abstract shapes even though you’re creating a realistic image. Sometimes abstraction and realism become blurred as part of any artist’s process. If Edward Burne-Jones had been creating at a different time, he could have been a master of abstraction. Perhaps that’s why artists such as Picasso were drawn to his work.

Burne-Jones is an amazing artist, and I wouldn’t want anything to change in his work. They are stunning, but I can also see an advanced understanding of abstraction, and you get a glimpse of it in the study for The Doom Fulfilled. If that understanding wasn’t there, he couldn’t subtly move the viewer from realism to fantasy. The images are beautiful, but there is a lot more happening within those images.

Burne-Jones uses the space between realism and abstraction to create fantasy, but it can also be used in many other ways. In an expressionist image, it can be used to express a feeling. It can also be used to turn a realistic image into a surreal image.

The image shows a piece of artwork by Jina Wallwork. It is a digital drawing of the Mona Lisa originally by Leonardo Da Vinci. Stylistically this piece of artwork has links with surrealism.

Mona Lisa 5 by Jina Wallwork

 

In this image from the Mona Lisa series, I blend abstraction and realism to create a surreal image. There are many options and many ways to express yourself. This piece is aesthetic, but it isn’t only about beauty. I don’t follow every aspect of Burne-Jones’ artistic practice. He is one influence among many. His work always captures my attention, and I’m amazed by his ability to create a beautiful fantasy. 

About the Author

Jina Wallwork has a BA (Hons) degree in Fine Art from Staffordshire University and a BA (Hons) degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from the Open University. She has also studied many other courses and has exhibited her artwork internationally.    

You might also like

The High Priestess, taken from a set of Tarot cards designed by Jina Wallwork.

The High Priestess

The High Priestess: 2 Artwork Description I didn’t want this priestess to conform to a western notion of beauty. Our culture and society have shaped

Read More »
The image shows a piece of artwork by Jina Wallwork.It is a digital drawing of the Mona Lisa originally by Leonardo Da Vinci. Stylistically this piece of artwork has links with surrealism.

Mona Lisa 58

Mona Lisa 58 by Jina Wallwork Number 58 in the Mona Lisa Project. A collection of images that are all inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona

Read More »