"The Fountain of Youth" (pastel drawing for portion of the painting)

Edward Burne-Jones, Artist

This is one of the drawings in our collection. It was made in England, Great Britain in 1892.
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Object Detail

About the Work
“Edward Burne-Jones is a classic late pre-Raphaelite. He’s a great example of how you have to work within your own aesthetic style. There is a lot about his technique that is limited but the trick all artists need to work out is how to turn these limitations as well as weaknesses into strengths. I think trends in painting and art are cyclical – based on class identifications and signalling as much as the aesthetic and artistic content of the work. Fashion moves slowly and the pre-Raphaelites are still very much ‘out of fashion’, this adds an extra enjoyable element to looking at them now.”
- Andrew McLeod, 'My Choice' exhibition series, August 2022

Sir Edward Burne-Jones was a painter, illustrator and designer associated with the second phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were a group of English painters and poets who professed to see a greater sincerity in art and admired the sentimentality in the paintings found in Florence and Sienna prior to the “pompous posturing of Raphael” as found in his Transfiguration of 1520. The later phase of the Pre-Raphaelites is characterised by a dependency on obscure symbolism, as opposed to expression in art.
At Exeter College, Oxford he met fellow theology student William Morris who stimulated Burne-Jones’ interest in art. He then met Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of the original members of the Pre-Raphaelites, to whom he became an apprentice in 1856. Among Burne-Jones's favourite subjects were graceful girls, angels, gods and heroes who all usually appear in a state of deep melancholy, thought or repose. Grace and languor, emphasised by drapery and his use of colour gives an unearthly remoteness to his paintings. He proclaimed:
“I mean by a picture a beautiful romantic dream, of something that never was, never will be – in a light better than any that ever shone – in a land no-one can define or remember, only desire – and the forms divinely beautiful.”
Although he completed some 200 oil paintings during his lifetime, Burne-Jones had a habit of returning to unfinished pictures many years afterwards. Although Fountain of Youth was begun in 1872, it did not receive Burne-Jones’ finishing touch as he deemed it too ambitious in scale. It rests here in Whanganui in a state of incompletion.
- Sarjeant Gallery exhibition label 'Leverhulme's Gifts', 2001

The drawing in the Sarjeant collection is for a portion of the planned painting. There is a preparatory watercolour of the full design in the Tate Britain collection which can be viewed at the weblink below. On the Tate Britain website it states:
According to his wife, Burne-Jones first began a large version of ‘The Fountain of Youth’ in 1873, which may be identified as this painting. The fountain of immortality was a theme he returned to several times over the years. Although the precise source of the subject is unknown, it is most probably derived from classical mythology. The Muses were thought to visit a spring on Mount Parnassis from which sprang the fountain of Castalia, the source of poetic inspiration.
- https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/burne-jones-fountain-of-youth-n03428 (accessed 5/8/2022)
Stretcher 1596 x 1605 x 35mm
Glazing frame 1665 x 1665 x 65 mm
Frame 2020 x 1970mm
chalk pastel on brown wove paper, lined onto linen, stretched over an open-backed wooden stretcher
Colour chalk drawing of various figures bathing, with two central clothed figures with arms wrapped around each other standing on a rock in the water at the centre of the image.
Credit Line
Collection of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui. Gift of Lord Leverhulme, 1924
Collection Type
Permanent collection
Acquisition Date
08 Apr 1924



Accession Number:

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