Philip Burne-Jones was the only son of Edward Burne-Jones and also became an artist. He found it hard to work in the shadow of his famous father, hence his life is a rather sad catalogue of wasted talents and opportunities.

He was educated at Marlborough (William Morris's old school) and at University College, Oxford, but had no academic success. He came down from Oxford without a degree, but with an ambition to move in society. He persuaded his father to accept a baronetcy in 1894 to facilitate this and Burne-Jones's earlier decision to hyphenate his name was probably also made to please his son.

Philip Burne-Jones inherited his father's gift for comic drawing and could have produced very original work in this field, but Edward Burne-Jones begged him to work only as a serious artist. This handicapped him still further. As his niece, the novelist Angela Thirkell recorded:

He could have been a distinguished painter and would have been one under a luckier star, but two things told fatally against him. He never needed to work, and he was cursed with a sense of diffidence and a feeling that whatever he did would be contrasted unfavourable with his father's work.. If he had had to depend upon himself and had worked in his own way, I do not believe that what he feared would have happened (Thirkell, 1931).

He began to exhibit at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1886 but preferred to exhibit at the New Gallery from its opening two years later. He produced a few literary pictures at the beginning of his career but specialized in landscapes and portraits. He evolved a distinctive type of small portrait where the sitter, usually seen three-quarter length, is set against a background reflecting their life. and interests.

His portraits of his father and his uncle, Rudyard Kipling in the National Portrait Gallery, but few of his works are in public collections. His diffidence gradually mastered him. He ceased to exhibit, only producing caricatures for friends, and died, a disappointed man, aged sixty four. although unpublished research exists on the artist, his position in his father's shadow is emphasised by the fact that most of the published information about him is to be found in the literature on Edward Burne-Jones. -- Hilary Morgan



Morgan, Hilary and Nahum, Peter. Burne-Jones, The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Century. London: Peter Nahum, 1989.

Thirkell, Angela. Three Houses. London: Oxford University Press, 1931.

Last modified 21 January 2002