ROSSETTI, Dante Gabriel
(b. 1828, London, d. 1882, Birchington on Sea)


English poet and painter, son of an Italian political refugee in London. He was taught drawing by Cotman and after a few unsuccessful months with Ford Madox Brown he went to Holman Hunt in 1848. Under Hunt's guidance he painted his first major work, The Girlhood of Mary Virgin, the first picture exhibited (in March 1849) with the initials of the PRB (Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood). His adherence to the tenets of the Brotherhood was, however, very shortlived.

His subjects were drawn mostly from Dante and from a medieval dream-world also reflected in his verse, e.g. The Wedding of St George, or Arthur's Tomb. Many of these were highly-elaborated watercolours. In 1850 he met Elizabeth Siddal, who also posed for Hunt and Millais, and from 1852 onwards she developed under his inspiration into an artist of poetic and neurotic intensity. His best work was produced during the years of their uneasy association. They married in 1860; in 1862 she died of narcotics and he became virtually a recluse and eventually a chloral addict.

In 1857 he was concerned (with Morris, Burne-Jones and others) in the decoration of the Oxford Union and he did one painting directly on a white-washed wall. It perished immediately. His poor technique and his use of studio assistants are obvious in many of his later works. From the 1860s Elizabeth Siddal's place was taken by Morris's wife Jane, and he painted many versions of the full-lipped sultry beauty which came to be associated with his name.