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Andrew Lloyd Webber is to lend Edward Burne-Jones's works to Tate Britain

Andrew Lloyd Webber, the musical impresario, who has long collected Victorian artists, is understood to be anonymously lending half a dozen works by the Pre-Raphaelite. Two celebrated series of paintings will be brought together in their entirety for Tate Britain’s Burne-Jones retrospective this autumn. The artist’s most famous narrative cycles, The Briar Rose c.1890 and the unfinished Perseus series (started 1875), have never been shown together before.
The composer and theatre producer Andrew Lloyd Webber, best known for hit musicals like Phantom of the Opera and Jesus Christ Superstar, will be a major lender to Tate Britain’s forthcoming Edward Burne-Jones exhibition, opening this October. Although Lloyd Webber is lending his working anonymously, it is understood that half a dozen works will be coming from the impresario, who has long collected Victorian artists, with Burne-Jones among his favourites. These include the Annunciation (1863), Flamma Vestalis (1886) and the Fall of Lucifer (1894).
Edward Coley Burne-Jones. Flamma Vestalis

The first survey dedicated to Burne-Jones in London since a 1975 exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, the Tate’s show will also re-assemble the artist’s two great narrative cycles, which have never been displayed together. The four Briar Rose canvases (around 1890) are coming from Lord Faringdon’s collection, housed at the National Trust’s Buscot Park in Oxfordshire. Works from the unfinished Perseus series (started in 1875) will be lent by the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart and Southampton City Art Gallery.

Left: Edward Burne-Jones. Flamma Vestalis (1886)

One series is drawn from the northern fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, depicting a princess and her court frozen in time in a medieval dream world, while the other depicts the action-packed classical myth of Perseus, a hero who slays Medusa and saves Andromeda from a sea monster. Exceptional loans from five different collections will provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience these outstanding works together.
All four canvases in Burne-Jones's The Briar Rose cycle will be shown in a museum setting for the first time, together with the panels painted to link each image to the next. Considered some of the artist’s finest and best loved works, this group of eight-foot long paintings caused a sensation when they were first unveiled at Agnew’s Gallery in London in 1890, with thousands of people queuing to see them. Each intricately detailed scene illustrates Charles Perrault’s famous fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty. The princess — modelled on Burne-Jones's own daughter Margaret — is shown surrounded by attendants as she waits for the prince to wake her with a kiss. Shortly after they were executed, the paintings were purchased by Alexander Henderson for his home Buscot Park in Oxfordshire, where they remain to this day as part of the Faringdon Collection.
  • Edward Coley Burne-Jones. The Perseus Series: The Rock of Doom 1888, 155×130 cm. Oil, Canvas
  • Edward Coley Burne-Jones. A Series Of "Perseus". The Rock Of Destiny 1885, 154×128.6 cm. Gouache, Cardboard
The Perseus cycle was commissioned by 26-year-old MP and future Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, who granted Burne-Jones free reign to create an installation for his London home. The artist proposed ten large-scale oil paintings, retelling the ancient Greek myth of Perseus, but some of the most ambitious and compelling designs were never realised.

To complete the cycle, Tate Britain will bring together four finished oil paintings from Germany with six spectacular full-scale preparatory paintings from Southampton, a silver and gold leaf panel from Cardiff and the watercolours for the overall scheme in Tate’s own collection.
Edward Coley Burne-Jones. William Morris reads to the poet Burne-Jones

These works will be among 150 paintings, tapestries and stained-glass panels to be shown in Tate Britain’s major autumn exhibition Edward Burne-Jones: Pre-Raphaelite Visionary.

The show will also include a delightful 1861 sketch he made of Morris reading him a poem, with the artist apparently asleep. Among other highlights is the Graham Piano (1880), embellished on the underside of the lid with a paintings of Orpheus and Eurydice. Although the loan is anonymous, the piano is still believed to be with the descendants of William Graham, the Glasgow MP who commissioned it.

Left: Edward Burne-Jones. William Morris reads poeia Burne-Jones. (1861)

Burne-Jones also received several commissions from friends and patrons to design and decorate grand pianos. For William Graham, he decorated a grand piano as a wedding gift for Graham’s daughter, Frances. The company built the grand piano as a traditional harpsichord, supported by a trestle stand and decorated in the style of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Burne-Jones executed numerous drawings for the paintings on the piano’s lid. Appropriately, the narrative story is based on the musical legend of Pindar’s Orpheus and Eurydice.

The piano decoration is embellished by a monochrome medallion around the side of the lid with the classical saga. Inside the lid, Mother Earth intertwines her offspring around the branches of a large vine tree while the spirit of music moves the poet Orpheus. Burne-Jones also completes designs for a grand piano for Alexander Ionides in 1893. The piano was also manufactured by Broadwood, in oak, stained
and decorated with gold and silver-gilt gesso, and is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Edward Burne-Jones, Graham Piano, 1879−1880. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England

Photo credit: Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England

Of the musical models that Burne-Jones constructed, only two have survived: a harp and psaltery. These models were part of his son’s collection (Sir Philip Burne-Jones, known as Bart), 15 and Burne-Jones shows them in his paintings, for example the psaltery in Female Musician and the harp in the decorative design for Love Among the Ruins of 1872, in Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyan by William Morris.

Left: Edward Burne-Jones, Love Among the Ruins, 1865−70. Illuminated page in William Morris' Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
Photo credit: Rubaiyat_Morris_Burne-Jones_Manuscript.jpg

The show will be open from 24 October 2018 to 24 February 2019
Burne-Jones was the only Pre-Raphaelite to receive international recognition in his lifetime and Alison Smith, the lead curator, wants to present him as "a global artist". Discussions are underway to tour a smaller version of the exhibition to Oslo and Stockholm in 2019−20.
Based on materials from Artnet, Artnewspaper, official site of Victoria and Albert Museum.

Title illustration: Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber lent The Fall of Lucifer by Sir Edward Burne-Jones to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England in 2010 Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images