E B-J (9″ x 13 1/2″) is Jonathan’s reflection in narrative form on elements of Burne-Jones’ life, ideas and art. This panel was conceived, created, painted and leaded for the Inspired by Burne-Jones exhibition in Rottingdean’s Grange Gallery in 2019.
Visual references include The Golden Stairs (1880), Viking Ship (1884, BJ445), The Council Chamber from the Briar Rose series of paintings (1885-90), and a humorous nod to the artist’s academic background and relationship with William Morris, referencing the 1861 sketch William Morris reading Poetry to Edward Burne-Jones, here seated on a book among the dream waves.
The image of the artist with a Magus from The Star of Bethlehem behind him is based on a detail from the 1890 photograph by Barbara Leighton. The barred window at the stern picks up on Burne-Jones’ reported intriguing comment “… [I]… am better in a prison than the open air always”, a reference to his great work The last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon on which he was still working at the time of his death, appears with him in the ship as a detail of work in progress.
The sail is the artist’s canvas; the figures moving down the ambiguous Golden Stairs are progressively ‘finished’ with the figure in the right foreground stepping from the painting into Jonathan’s interpretation of Burne-Jones’s alternative reality, to join the sleeping courtiers. This still place is separated from the contemporary world represented by stormy seas, grim factories and a prowling medieval figure of Death, by stylised clouds at left, their design borrowed from a stained glass window (1866, BJ120a) in the Church of the Annunciation in Brighton.
In Jonathan’s vision, Burne-Jones steers his unique course, with a paintbrush for a rudder, into the world of his imagination.
Oleumaqua, which sold at the exhibition, is Jonathan’s personal response to disapproving comments reported to have been made by Whistler, Burne-Jones’ arch rival, on his painting techniques: “They take his oils for water-colours and his water-colours for oils”, relating to an incident in which Love among the Ruins, a large watercolour, was damaged by the application of egg-white, having been mistaken for an oil painting.