Monday, June 20, 2016

07 Classic Works of Art, Edward Burne-Jones' Marine Paintings of Mermaids

Edward Burne-Jones, British (1833 - 1898)
Helen, a Mermaid, c. 1880
Oil on canvas
Height: 29.5 cm (11.61 in.), Width: 71.5 cm (28.15 in.)
Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery - Carlisle  (United Kingdom - Carlisle)

This is possibly a decorative panel dedicated to Helen Mary Gaskellborn in 1859, was the daughter of Canon Melville of Worcester and the wife of Captain Gaskell of the 9th Lancers who had visited the Middle East with Holman Hunt. More on Helen Mary Gaskell

Frances Horner introduced Helen Mary Gaskell to Burne-Jones in 1892. She became an important confidante of the artist. Her correspondence with Burne-Jones is in the British Museum and her collection of drawings in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

A mermaid is a legendary aquatic creature with the head and upper body of a female human and the tail of a fish. Mermaids appear in the folklore of many cultures worldwide, including the Near East, Europe, Africa and Asia. The first stories appeared in ancient Assyria, in which the goddess Atargatis transformed herself into a mermaid out of shame for accidentally killing her human lover. Mermaids are sometimes associated with perilous events such as floods, storms, shipwrecks and drownings.

Edward Burne-Jones, British (1833 - 1898)
A Sea-Nymph, c. 1881
Oil on canvas
Minneapolis Institute of Art

A sea nymph, in mythology, is a female nature deity of the sea, or female spirit of sea waters. Sea nymph primarily refers to: Nereid, one of the fifty daughters of Nereus and Doris in Greek mythology. Oceanid, one of the three thousand daughters of the Titans Oceanus and Tethys in Greek and Roman mythology. More on a sea nymph

Edward Burne-Jones, British (1833 - 1898)
A Mermaid, c. 1882
Watercolor
Height: 31.2 cm (12.28 in.), Width: 23.5 cm (9.25 in.)
Tate Britain - London  (United Kingdom)

The male equivalent of the mermaid is the merman, also a familiar figure in folklore and heraldry. Although traditions about and sightings of mermen are less common than those of mermaids, they are generally assumed to co-exist with their female counterparts.

Edward Burne-Jones, British (1833 - 1898) 
The Depths of the Sea, c. 1887
Watercolor and gouache on wove paper mounted on panel

197 x 76 cm (77 9/16 x 29 15/16 in.)

Harvard Art Museums


A mermaid triumphantly clasps her prey, tugging him into the watery depths. Was he a mariner, drowned at sea, or did she cause his death in the act of abduction? Burne-Jones may have been inspired by Ovid’s tale of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus. The water nymph Salmacis was spellbound by the handsome youth and pulled him to his death underwater, “twining around him like a serpent.” Burne-Jones borrowed an immense water tank from a fellow artist in order to properly capture the undersea environment. The silvery fish were added at the suggestion of a friend, who felt that they emphasized the “underwateriness” of the picture. More on this painting




Edward Burne-Jones, British (1833 - 1898) 
Mermaids in the Deep (The Mermaid Family), c. 1878
Watercolor and gouache on wove paper mounted on panel

Many folktales record marriages between mermaids (who might assume human form) and men. In most, the man steals the mermaid’s cap or belt, her comb or mirror. While the objects are hidden she lives with him; if she finds them she returns at once to the sea. In some variants the marriage lasts while certain agreed-upon conditions are fulfilled, and it ends when the conditions are broken. More on the Mermaid Family

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, 1st Baronet ARA (28 August 1833 – 17 June 1898) was a British artist and designer closely associated with the later phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Burne-Jones was also closely involved in the rejuvenation of the tradition of stained glass art in Britain. Burne-Jones's early paintings show the heavy inspiration of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, but by the 1860s Burne-Jones was discovering his own artistic "voice". In 1877, he was persuaded to show eight oil paintings at the Grosvenor Gallery. The timing was right, and he was taken up as a herald and star of the new Aesthetic Movement.

Edward Burne-Jones, British (1833 - 1898) 
Mermaid With Her Offspring
Oil on Canvas
20"x 30"

In addition to painting and stained glass, Burne-Jones worked in a variety of crafts; including designing ceramic tiles, jewellery, tapestries, mosaics and book illustration, most famously designing woodcuts for the Kelmscott Press's Chaucer in 1896. More

Edward Burne-Jones, British (1833 - 1898) 
The Depths of the Sea





Please visit my other blogs: Art CollectorMythologyMarine Art, and The Canals of Venice

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