Why it's time to embrace the mad, androgynous art of Burne-Jones

Laus Veneris (c.1873-75) by Edward Coley Burne-Jones
Laus Veneris (c.1873-75) by Edward Coley Burne-Jones

To gaze at the pre-Raphaelite visions of Edward Coley Burne-Jones is to enter a world beyond time, politics and history. In his 19th-century dreamscapes, the air is heavy and movement is suspended; figures touch yet don't connect, their eyes downcast and gazes averted; gender identities are confused or obscured. And everything is refined to the point of sensory oppression: these are pictures so coolly, perfectly beautiful that they mesmerise and repel in the same instant.

With its unmistakably Victorian yearning for a narrative to counter the realities of industrialisation, Burne-Jones's art feels tailor-made for a public craving escapism – so Tate Britain's upcoming retrospective of his entire...

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