As so often happens at the Archives, you can be looking for something else and come across an extraordinary find. The Flower Book by Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898) is a series of 38 round watercolours, each about six inches across, painted from 1882 to 1898. Despite the title, the paintings do not depict flowers but were paintings inspired by the flowers’ names.
Burne-Jones called them “a series of illustrations to the Names of Flowers”.
They were painted for his own enjoyment, many while he was staying at his summer home in Rottingdean, and were described by his wife, Georgiana, as the “most soothing piece of work that he ever did”.
Edward Burne-Jones was a British artist and designer closely associated with the later phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, who worked closely with William Morris on a wide range of decorative arts as a founding partner in Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. What makes him of particular interest to us in Fulham is that in 1867 Burne-Jones and his family settled at the Grange, an 18th-century house set in a large garden in North End Road, Fulham.
On his death, Burne-Jones left the album of flower paintings to his wife and she published a facsimile edition of 300 copies in 1905 in co-operation with the Fine Art Society in London. These copies of the “Book” were sold in both bound and unbound form, with the unbound copies contained in a clamshell box. It is one of these unbound copies that is in the Archives.
Georgiana wrote of Burne-Jones’s aims in detail in her introduction to the 1905 facsimile of the book:
At first he thought any lovely or romantic name would lend itself to his purpose, but soon found it was not so, and that comparatively few were of use. Such as had too obvious a meaning as for instance ODIN’S HELM or FAIR MAID OF FRANCE, he rejected because there was not any reserve of thought in them for imagination to work upon. A picture, he held, should be no faint echo of other men’s thoughts, but ‘a voice concurrent or prophetical’. It was easy enough, he said, merely to illustrate, but he wanted to add to the meaning of words or to wring their secret from them.
The book now in the Archives was given to Ruth Egerton (sister of Sir Stafford Cripps) by her father Lord Parmoor and she in turn gave it to Frances Egerton on 14 February 1931.
I reproduce here ten of the paintings from the collection picked at random:
The British Museum bought the original album of paintings from Georgiana Burne-Jones in 1909.
By Fiona Fowler,
Volunteer, Hammersmith &Fulham, Local Studies and Archives and Local History Room