Dante Gabriel Rossetti was born on May 12th, 1828 in London, England.
Together with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, they developed and founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. It’s mission: to reform English art and return to the detail, intense colours and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art.
The brotherhood's magazine, The Germ, was first published in 1850, with Rossetti contributing a poem, 'The Blessed Damozel', and a story about a fictional Italian artist inspired by a vision of a woman who bids him combine the human and the divine in his art.
Rossetti first met his future wife, Elizabeth Siddal, a model, in 1849; she was later sitting for him and involved in an intense relationship. By 1852 they withdrew from society, totally absorbed in each other. The lovers nicknamed each other 'Guggums' and 'Dove'.
In 1861, Rossetti, together with William Morris, became a founding partner in the decorative arts firm Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. Rossetti contributed designs for stained glass and other decorative objects.
Meanwhile his marriage to Lizzie was troubled. The terrible hurt of Rossetti’s affairs with other women had caused her stress leading to depression and other illnesses. She now began to take and become addicted to laudanum. In 1861, Lizzie became pregnant, but the resultant birth was a stillborn daughter. Lizzie’s postpartum depression was followed by an overdose of laudanum the following year. Rossetti was devastated, and at her funeral in Highgate Cemetery, he buried the bulk of his unpublished poems with her body.
His personal life was closely woven into his work, especially his relationships with his models and muses. William Morris’ wife, Jane, regularly sat for him during the next few years, and it was said she "consumed and obsessed him in paint, poetry, and life".
During these years, Rossetti was prevailed upon by friends to exhume his poems from his wife's grave, which he eventually did; he collated and published them in 1870. Their eroticism and sensuality caused much offence. One, 'Nuptial Sleep', described a couple falling asleep after sex. It was part of the sonnet sequence The House of Life, a complex series tracing the physical and spiritual development of an intimate relationship. Rossetti described the sonnet form as a "moment's monument", and these were his crowning literary achievement.
Toward the end of his life, he sank into a morbid state, shadowed by addiction to chloral hydrate and increasing mental instability. He spent his last years as a recluse at Cheyne Walk and died on Easter Sunday, April 9th, 1882.
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