The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Georgiana Burne-Jones, 1840-1920

Nationality: British
Date of Birth: 1840
Place of Birth:
Date of Death: 1920
Place of Death:


Georgiana Burne-Jones, née Macdonald, was the third surviving daughter of the Methodist minister George Browne Macdonald. She had three sisters, who all made prominent marriages. Agnes married the artist Edward Poynter, Alice married John Lockwood Kipling, (their son was the poet Rudyard Kipling), and Louisa married the Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. In June 1860 Georgiana married the artist Edward Coley Burne-Jones. The following year she gave birth to a son, Philip, who also became a painter, albeit a minor one. Their daughter Margaret was born in 1866.


Georgiana Burne-Jones was small in stature, with an elegance and self-possession that brought to the mind of Charles Eliot Norton the graceful painted figures of Thomas Stothard. She was a woman of high moral stature, who espoused the socialist teachings of John Ruskin and William Morris. She was also a cultivated woman. Many noted her talent as a pianist and her possession of a good singing voice, including William Bell Scott, George Price Boyce and Charles Eliot Norton.

Burne-Jones began a portrait of his wife in 1883. It was worked on over several years but never finished (private collection). Poynter had also painted Georgiana's portrait in 1870 (private collection).

The two volumed work that Georgiana compiled as a memorial to her husband, presents the scholar with invaluable information concerning the daily life and working practice of her husband. However, anxious about public image, she was not always entirely open about her family situation. She omitted from her biography a number of important incidents, for example her husband's affair with Maria Zambaco in 1869. She also tried to persuade T. M. Rooke to destroy certain notes he had made concerning studio conversations with her husband.


Bell, M., Sir Edward Burne-Jones: A Record and Review, London, 1892; Minto, W. (ed.), Autobiographical Notes of the Life of William Bell Scott, London, 1892; Burne-Jones, Georgiana, Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones, 2 vols, London, 1904; Norton, Sara and M. A. DeWolfe Howe (eds), The Letters of Charles Eliot Norton, London, 1913; Harrison, Martin and B. Waters, Burne-Jones, London, 1973; Surtees, Virginia (ed.), The Diaries of George Price Boyce, Norwich, 1980; Wildman, Stephen and John Christian, Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer, exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Birmingham City Art Galleries, 1998; Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 2004.