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Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti was born in the city of London, in May 1828. His friends and family called him Gabriel, but he would sign Dante first, in Dante Alighieri's honor. Both his parents were notable scholars, his father, Gabriele Pasquale Giuseppe Rossetti, was also a secret society Carbonari’s founder. His mother was Frances Mary Lavinia Polidori.
Rossetti was homeschooled for most of his childhood. Like his siblings, he showed an early interest in becoming a poet and attended the King’s College School. He demonstrated the will to become a poet like all his siblings, as well as a painter, and nurtured a keen interest in Medieval Italian art.
Between 1841 and 1845, Rossetti at Henri Sass’ Drawing Academy, which he left to attend three years at the Royal Academy's Antique School. Upon leaving the Academy, Rossetti began to study under British painter Ford Madox Brown, who became a close friend throughout his life.
Following the exhibition of the painting The Eve of St. Agnes by William Holman Hunt, inspired by a poem by John Keats. Rossetti immediately tried to make acquaintances with Hunt, for said artwork caused a deep impression on the artist. Soon, Rossetti created a poem and painting. Both were called The Blessed Damozel, and both became Rossetti’s most famous artworks in their respective fields. The poem was an imitation of John Keats, showing that both artists shared the same inspirations.
Together, Rossetti and Hunt developed the ideals of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which was established along with John Everett Millais. The group’s central philosophy was to reject the impending artist style, represented by the Mannerist artists who succeeded Michelangelo and Raphael, hence the name. The Brotherhood thought that said style was a mechanical and superficial approach to art, same to the regime Sir Joshua Reynolds introduced at the Royal Academy of Arts.
Following a harsh reception of his painting Ecce Ancilla Domini, exhibited in 1850, Rossetti would turn to watercolor painting, which he sold privately. Rossetti would return to oil painting around 1860. He developed his style to striking close-up compositions of women, immersed in pictorial spaces characterized by his strong use of color. Said paintings became a pivotal influence on the Symbolist movement.
In 1862, Rossetti’s died of a laudanum overdose, possibly a suicide, since he recently gave birth to a stillborn child. The loss of his beloved plunged the artist into depression. The harsh critic reaction to his poetry contributed to Rossetti’s mental breakdown in 1872. Towards the end of his life, Rossetti descended into a morbid state, worsened by an addiction to chloral hydrate.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti died on April 9, 1882, Easter Sunday.