SIR EDWARD COLEY BURNE-JONES BT ARA (1833-1898)
PRE-RAPHAELITE (founded 1848)
Head Study - Bessie Keene (England, c.1898)
Pencil on paper
Berlin, Drawings and Studies by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Bart., 1898, no. unknown, as Three Studies of Heads
Description / Expertise
This drawing is a study of Bessie Keene for the head of the woman in `Love Among the Ruins'. Burne-Jones painted his final version of this subject in 1893.
Beauty was Burne-Jones's main aim in art. `I mean by a picture', he wrote, `a beautiful romantic dream of something that never was, never will be- in a light better than any light that ever shone- in a land no one can define or remember, only desire- and the forms divinely beautiful.'(1) This same desire for beauty permeates his drawings, whether they are finished works of art, studies for pictures or even the comic drawings with which he delighted his friends. Graham Robertson recalled that, as a master of line he was always unequalled; to draw was his natural mode of expression- line flowed from him almost without volition. If he were merely playing with a pencil the result was never a scribble, but a thing of beauty however slight, a perfect design.(2) Robertson, himself a painter, noted that this instinctive sense of design was rare, even in great academic draughtsmen such as Edward Poynter or great artists like Whistler.
Burne-Jones was deeply concerned with technical perfection in his drawing. He discussed his use of pencil with his studio assistant, T. M. Rooke: I never use it to sketch with, I use it as a finishing instrument. But it's always touch and go whether I can manage it even now. Sometimes knots will come in it and I can never get them out, I mean little black specks. There's no drawing I consider perfect.(3)
1. Arts Council of Great Britain, 1975, Edward Burne-Jones (catalogue of the exhibition by John Christian), page 11
2. W. Graham Robertson, Time Was, (Hamish Hamilton, London, 1931), page 84
3. Mary Lago (editor), Burne-Jones Talking, (John Murray, London, 1980), page 84 (18th January 1896)