Dante Gabriel Rossetti was born on May 12th, 1828 in London, England. In his lifetime he became an English poet, illustrator, painter, and translator. Rossetti got his education at home in his childhood and he read the Bible. He attended King’s College School because he wanted to be a poet, He also attended Henry Sass’s Drawing Academy from 1841 to 1845 to become a painter. Later, He enrolled at the Antique School of the Royal Academy and left in 1848. In 1849, Dante Rossetti painted The Girlhood of Mary Virgin and depicted Mary as a young teenage girl.
William Bell Scott saw the painting in process at Hunt’s studio. In 1850, Rossetti painted Ecce Ancilla Domini which also depicted Mary as a teenage girl. The painting shows Mary getting a message from Angel Gabriel that she would give birth to a child by God. This painting by Rossetti got some bad reviews, saying that their was a break in tradition and that Angel Gabriel did not have wings. Dante Rossetti met Elizabeth Siddal in 1850. She was a model for Pre-Raphaelite painters, Siddal and Rossetti married in 1860. Dante Rossetti studied on Italian poetry translated to English.
In the 1850s, Rossetti’s art was inspired by Alighieri’s La Vita Nuova and Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. Rossetti created a method of painting in watercolours, getting rich effects like medieval illuminations by mixing thick pigments with gum. He created a technique with pen and ink for novel drawings. Dante Rossetti attended Christ Church on Albany Street with his family since 1843. They made religious and noble paintings since 1848, the beginning of the Pre-Raphaelite formation. Their goal was to give a message of “moral reform” through the style of their art and show a “truth to nature. In 1849, Rossetti wrote “Hand and Soul,” A story of a man named Chiaro who was an artist with spiritual inclinations.
Chiaro’s spirit tells him to “set thine hand and thy soul to serve man with God. ” In 1860, Rossetti started making oil paintings again, but stopped doing medieval compositions. Rossetti started doing close-ups of women that became a major influence on the European Symbolist movement. In this new direction, he portrayed his new lover Fanny Cornforth as the embodiment of physical eroticism. Rossetti portrayed Jane Burden as an elegant goddess, Burden is also the wife of William Morris, his business partner.
Rossetti became the founding partner of the decorative arts firm, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. in 1861. In 1862, Dante Rossetti became more and more depressed when his wife, Elizabeth Siddal, died of an overdose after birthing a stillborn child. When Rossetti buried Siddal at Highgate Cemetery, he buried his unfinished poems with her. Later, Rossetti dug up the poems and gave respect to his wife by using her image in a lot of his paintings. He finished the painting called Beata Beatrix around 1870, modeling Dante’s Beatrice after his Siddal.
Then Rossetti rented out Tudor House at 16, Cheyne Walk , London and lived here for 20 years. Dante Rossetti was fascinated with animals like the wombat, he bought a pet wombat that he named “Top” in 1869. Later on, Rossetti bought a llama and a toucan, He would wear a cowboy hat and ride the llama around the dining table just for fun. Rossetti made many paintings of Fanny Cornforth from 1863 to 1865, then he met a dressmaker named Alexa Wilding. She modeled for him in many painting including Veronica Veronese, The Blessed Damozel, and A Sea-Spell.
Rossetti paid Wilding to model for him full-time and they created a lasting bond. Rossetti also paid her a weekly fee to only model for him. During these years, Jane Morris also modeled for Rossetti. Morris and Rossetti rented Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire as a summer home in 1869. This home became a place where Rossetti and Morris had a long lasting relationship. From 18 71 to 1873, while William Morris was in Iceland, Jane Morris and Dante Rossetti spent their summers at the home with Morris’s children. Jane “consumed and obsessed” Rossetti “in paint, poetry, and life.
In 1870, Dante Rossetti published his first volume of poems, Poems by D. G. Rossetti, that he dug up from his wife’s grave. These poems created controversy because of their eroticism and sensuality. In Rossetti’s poem “Nuptial Sleep” he wrote about two lovers sleeping after having sex. This was a part of The House of Life, Rossetti’s sonnet sequence, a series of poems following the physical and spiritual progress of an intimate relationship. Rossetti implied that he wanted to incorporate the feeling of a passing moment and reflect on the meaning of it.
Dante Rossetti published his second volume of poems, Ballads and Sonnets, in 1881. Rossetti received bad reviews from critics on his first set of poetry, which helped cause Rossetti to have a mental breakdown in June of 1872. Even though Rossetti spent the summer at Kelmscott with Jane Morris, he was mostly taking chloral and drinking whiskey. Rossetti improved greatly the next summer, he made a passionate series of surreal portraits with Alexa and Jane modeling for him. Rossetti was cut from the decorative arts firm business when Morris reorganised it in 1874.
In July of 1874, Dante Rossetti left Kelmscott unexpectedly and never returned. Rossetti went into an unhealthy state, possibly caused or worsened by being mentally unstable and his drug addiction to chloral. In 1882, Rossetti went to a country house of a friend, trying to recover his health that was damaged by chloral. Dante Gabriel Rossetti died on Easter Sunday from Bright’s Disease, a kidney disease he was afflicted by for awhile. Rossetti was buried at Birchington-on-Sea, the admirers of his work and achievements placed flowers on his grave regularly.