Like his fellow Pre-Raphaelite artists, Edward Burne-Jones' paintings often included an array of mythological subjects, from ancient Greece to the bible. Burne-Jones was extremely interested in mythology from a young age, creating a dream world for himself to compensate for his harsh upbringing at the hands of the strict housekeeper. This fascination with myths, particularly the Arthurian legend, continued for his whole life and Burne-Jones' art was reaction against the `moral ugliness' of the industrial world he grew up in, where realism had taken over in art. Julia Cartwright wrote in `The Art Annual' of 1894 that `the art of Burne-Jones from first to last has been a silent and unconscious protest against the most striking tendencies of the modern world'. Burne-Jones' work is nostalgic and he wanted to bring the beauty, passion and spirit of these classic myths back to art.
Burne-Jones was particularly inspired during a visit to Italy where he saw the work of early renaissance artists, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Mantegna. He admired the way they painted with rich colours and particularly how they, especially Botticelli, treated the human form. Botticelli is famous for his depictions of nude women. Many of the idiosyncratic features of Burne-Jones work - the way the paint is lightly applied, the limited palette of soft and rich colours, the strong emphasis on line and the way he elongates the figure - were inspired by the artists of the early renaissance.
Burne-Jones elongates the figure to an almost angelic height, giving his subjects a heavenly quality. This can be seen in `The Annunciation'. The slender, long figure of Mary, combined with the flowing white gown, emphasise her innocence and beauty. The canvas is vertical and narrow, and the archway is also tall which compliment the height of Mary and the angel, and makes the composition similar to that of a stained glass window. Burne-Jones has highlighted line, particularly on the figure, which makes the painting almost flat and stationary, giving the painting a still, calm look. Despite the expression in the angel's face, he almost looks as if he is suspended, motionless in space.
It is painted with limited a palette, using soft, colours which almost illuminate the entire scene and give the impression that the heavens are shining down upon the contemplative scene. The soft colours are easy to the eye, not brash or harsh, emphasising the innocence of Mary and the holy aspects of the scene.
The elaborate robes and wing of the angel, and the carvings above the archway are extremely and detailed. Most of Burne-Jones work is full of intricate and decorative features which give richness to the paintings to show the richness and opulence of the story that the paintings aim to convey. Botticelli and Michelangelo worked in very fine detail, which was a great influence to the Pre-Raphaelites. Burne-Jones, as much as he puts detail on to the clothing and stonework,...