Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as he preferred to be called, was born in London to the family of an Italian
émigré who encouraged the fine arts in his children all of whom, most famously Christina,
expressed interest in poetry. He attended King's College and showed early interest not only in poetry
but also in painting studying under Henry Sass and at the Royal Academy in his teens.
After meeting Holman Hunt, he was moved to write in 1850, modeled on Keats' The Eve of Saint Agnes,
his The Blessed Damozel a translation into French of which Debussy memorably set to music.
He founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood with Hunt and Millais intending a return to the styles of
art prevailing at the time of Raphael and Michelangelo, including faithful landscapes and portraits
The movement encountered criticism, however, turning him towards water colours and against
exhibitions. He turned to translations of Dante's poetry whilst developing painting techniques sought
after by leading publishers of the day.
He married his muse and model, Elizabeth Siddal, in 1860 but her death in 1862 plunged him into
depression and led him to inter his poems with her until he recovered them for publication in 1870
followed by a further volume in 1881. He returned to an idealistic style of painting, however, having
been inspired by several models of striking beauty.
As a consequence of continued criticism, he suffered a mental breakdown in 1872. He recovered
somewhat but became drug addicted and reclusive and died of kidney failure in 1882.
His paintings and poetry were considered too sensual by contemporary critics but he is recognized as
a leading exponent of English revival painting and, less successfully, as a gifted poet on matters
of human relationships.