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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Some notable art historians have argued that as a draughtsman, Edward Burne-Jones was at his strongest. When you browse some of his finest drawings, it is perhaps hard to argue with this line of thought.

It was only at around the end of the 19th century that artist's drawings were starting to be treated as serious artworks in their own right, rather than just preparation for more complex mediums. Within the UK at this time there were art historians who were comparing the finest draughtsman of that period with some of the great masters like Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli and Raphael. Burne-Jones himself plus Frederic Leighton and GF Watts were not considered to be of the same standard, but certainly at their own high level and worthy of respect.

This medium was starting to be seen as artistic purity, offering a path back to the great Renaissance masters and also offering the most skilled artists an opportunity to display their abilities in the clearest possible way. The likes of Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Lawrence had earlier drawn attention to this art form across the UK gallery scene and this continued with the contributions of artists such as this.

It is no surprise that British art historians were starting to document this medium in far greater detail. They were aware of how the artists had studied the Italian Renaissance masters in detail and taken on many elements of their skills as draughtsmen. Sketching is the rawest of artistic techniques and helps to remind us that Edward Burne-Jones avoided the standard forms of art teaching which helped him to form very much his own, unique, approach. His late arrival into this profession ensured that he would bypass the standard route of most at this time who would be forced through the Royal Academy schools.