Posted in books, Fantasy, films & DVD, Television

Lord of the Rings-The Fellowship of the Ring

I have recently watched Peter Jackson’s exciting epic adaptation of Lord of the Rings. It concerns The Evil Dark Lord Sauron, who during the First Age creates a number of powerful rings with the help of Elven blacksmiths – Nine rings for the Kings of Men, Seven for the Dwarf Lords and three for the Elves. However unbeknown to everyone he wishes to conquer and rule all of Middle-earth and corrupt everyone. So he forges another Evil Ring in secret in order to control the other Rings, this ring can only be Destroyed by throwing into the fires of Mount Doom, in Mordor. He is eventually defeated in battle by an alliance of Men and Elves, and Isildur cuts the One Ring from Sauron’s finger. Unfortunately though, instead of destroying it, he claims it as an heirloom and is later ambushed and killed by Orcs in the Gladden Fields. The Ring is lost in the River Anduin. Over two thousand years later, the Ring is found by a river-dwelling stoor called Déagol. Unfortunately His friend Sméagol immediately falls under the Ring’s corruptive influence and strangles Deagol to acquire it. Sméagol is banished and hides under the Misty Mountains, where the Ring extends his lifespan and transforms him over the course of hundreds of years into a twisted, corrupted creature called Gollum.

Gollum unfortunately loses the Ring and Bilbo Baggins finds it. Meanwhile, Sauron takes a new physical form flees from Dol Guldur in Mirkwood and reoccupies his old realm of Mordor. Gollum sets out in search of the Ring, but is captured by Sauron, who learns from him that Bilbo Baggins now has it. Gollum is set loose to find the ring, as Sauron needs it to regain his full power, he also sends forth his powerful servants, the Nazgûl, to seize it. Meanwhile back in the Shire, the hobbit named Frodo Baggins inherits the Ring from Bilbo, his cousin and guardian. Neither is aware of the rings provenance however Gandalf the Grey, a wizard and old friend of Bilbo, suspects the Ring’s identity. When he becomes certain, he advises Frodo to take and destroy it in Mount Doom where it was forged. So Frodo undertakes a hazardous journey across Middle Earth, accompanied by his gardener and friend, Samwise (“Sam”) Gamgee, and two cousins, Meriadoc (“Merry”) Brandybuck and Peregrin (“Pippin”) Took. The Nazgûl almost kill them while they are still in the Shire, but escape through the Old Forest.

After leaving the forest, they stop in the town of Bree where they meet Aragorn, Isildur’s heir. He accompanies them as a guide and protector. They narrowly escape from Bree but the Nazgûl follow and attack them on the hill of Weathertop, wounding Frodo with a Morgul blade. Aragorn leads the hobbits toward the Elven refuge of Rivendell, before Frodo  succumbs to the wound. The Ringwraiths nearly overtake Frodo at the Ford of Bruinen, but flood waters drown them. Frodo recovers in Rivendell under the care of Elrond who organises The Council of Elrond to decide the fate of the Ring. Here Frodo meets Legolas the Elf, Gimli the Dwarf and Boromir eldest son of the Steward of Gondor who all agree to accompany him to Mount Doom to destroy the ring. So the hobbits Frodo Baggins, Samwise “Sam” Gamgee, Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck and Peregrin “Pippin” Took, aided by Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Boromir set off on a perilous quest across Middle Earth to destroy the Ring in the Fires of Mount Doom. Along the way they Encounter many dangers including The Nazgul, Cave Trolls, Hordes of vicious orcs, and The Ancient Demonic and fiery Balrog in the former Dwarf stronghold of Moria. Eventually they reach the Elven forest of Lothlórien where They are assisted by Galadriel and Celeborn before making for Gondor. However they are again attacked and Merry and Pippin are kidnapped. Meanwhile Frodo and Sam set off across the treacherous Emyn Muil and Dead Marshes towards Mount Doom unaware that they are being watched by sinister eyes…

I enjoy The film even though it deviates from the novel somewhat, most notably Omitting the scenes when they are captured by Old Man Willow and when they are almost captured by Barrow Wights while crossing the ancient Barrow Downs. The film also omits the enigmatic Tom Bombadil, who alone seems unaffected by the Ring’s corrupting influence.

Posted in music

Steve Howe (Yes, Asia)

Best known as the guitarist in the Progressive rock bands Yes and Asia, English musician, songwriter and producer Stephen James “Steve” Howe was born 8 April 1947 in Holloway, North London. Howe developed an early interest in the guitar And got his first guitar an F-Hole acoustic at age 12 for a Christmas present, and began to learn the instrument himself. Howe’s earliest memories is marching around the home to brass band music that he played on the home stereo. He cites several influences from his parents’ record collection including Les Paul and Tennessee Ernie Ford, and also listened to classical guitar and jazz, citing Barney Kessel, Wes Montgomery, Bob Dylan and Chet Atkins, as influences. Howe attended Holloway School. After he left primary school, he wished to become a guitarist and took up several part-time jobs until he wished to become a full time musician around 18.

Howe teamed with school friends and played his first gig at The Swan, a pub in Tottenham, playing a cover of “Frightened City” by The Shadows. At 14, Howe and his friend from Tottenham started a group that played in youth clubs, eventually landing gigs in pubs and ballrooms. At one point, the band secured a short residency at HM Prison Pentonville for two nights a week. Around 1961, Howe bought a solid body Guyatone, his first electric guitar, followed with a Gibson ES-175D in 1964, Before he became a full time musician Howe took up work at a piano factory, followed by a job in a music shop. He left the shop when he began to pick up regular gigs.

In 1964 Howe joined the north London-based rhythm and blues group The Syndicats. His first studio recordings were a rendition of “Maybellene” by Chuck Berry that was released as a single with “True to Me” on its B-side.In 1965, Howe left the band and accepted an invitation to join The In-Crowd, a soul and covers band who often played in Tottenham and released a rendition of “That’s How Strong My Love Is” by Otis Redding. The band renamed themselves Tomorrow and adopted a psychedelic rock sound, writing more original songs and changing their stage clothes. In 1967, they released two singles: “My White Bicycle” and “Revolution”,

Howe recorded some guitar as a session musician, this included his first song “Mothballs”, (“So Bad”) and playing guitar on Keith West’s single “Excerpt from A Teenage Opera”. Howe also took part in a pie fight scene in the satirical comedy film Smashing Time. After Tomorrow split in 1967, Howe Played the bass guitar on Keith West’s “The Kid Was a Killer”, and on tracks with guitarist Ronnie Wood and drummer Aynsley Dunbar. In 1968 Howe joined a trio who went by the name of Canto for a short period but they disbanded. Howe released the tracks for the proposed album after he obtained the recordings and remixed them himself as The Bodast Tapes (1981). He joined the progressive rock band The Nice.

In April 1970, Howe was invited to joine the Progressive rock band Yes following the departure of Peter Banks and appears on the cover of the second album Time and a Word. On the band’s third album, The Yes Album (1971). Howe’s electric and acoustic guitars, combined with Jon Anderson’s vocals, Chris Squire’s bass, Bill Bruford’s drums, and Tony Kaye’s keyboards, became an essential part of the band’s change in musical direction towards progressive rock. Kaye left in 1971 and was replaced by Rick Wakeman for the following album, Fragile. This classic Yes line-up of Anderson–Howe–Squire–Bruford–Wakeman is associated with the classic Yes sound. In 1971, Wakeman and Howe also contributed to the recording of Lou Reed’s first solo album as session musicians.

Howe had a large array of electric and acoustic guitar sounds, and used a novel approach to pedal steel guitar on the album, Close to the Edge, His classical training along with his penchant for ongoing experimentation, helped produce a playing style unique among rock musicians, and the group became a leading progressive rock band. Following Close to the Edge, Howe played on Tales from Topographic Oceans, Relayer, Going for the One and Tormato. In 1975, Yes took an extended break for each member to release a solo album. Howe recorded a mixture of solo and group performed tracks for Beginnings at Morgan with performances from Bruford, Alan White, Patrick Moraz, and singer Claire Hamill and his second solo album, The Steve Howe Album, was released in November 1979.In early 1980, Anderson and Wakeman left the group and were replaced a few weeks later by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes. Yes began incorporating elements of new wave into their progressive rock blend. Howe continued with the band until Yes officially split up in early 1981. Although the group was back together less than a year later, Howe was not included in the new line-up.

In 1981, Howe teamed with Downes, singer and bassist John Wetton, and drummer Carl Palmer to form the supergroup Asia Their debut album, Asia was released in 1982. Following the release of their second album Alpha, Howe left Asia in 1983. Following his departure, Howe performed an acoustic guitar solo on “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” on the 1984 same titled album by the pop group Frankie Goes to Hollywood that Horn produced. He also played on Industry Standard (1982) by The Dregs. In 1985, Howe formed another supergroup, GTR, named after an abbreviation of the word “guitar”, with guitarist Steve Hackett, singer Max Bacon, drummer Jonathan Mover, and bassist Phil Spalding and released one studio album, GTR in 1986 containing the single, “When the Heart Rules the Mind”. Hackett’s left In 1987, so Howe commissioned Robert Berry as Hackett’s replacement, and sought ideas of a new band name including Steve Howe and Friends and Nero and the Trend however, the group disbanded. In 1988, a guitar compilation album Guitar Speak was released which features Howe’s track “Sharp on Attack”. A UK tour named Night of the Guitars was organised with Howe in the line-up, performing “Clap”, “Wurm”, and the all-cast encore. Howe also contributed to Transportation (1988), the first solo album by Billy Currie.

In 1988 Jon Anderson invited Howe to take part in a new album with Rick Wakeman and Bill Bruford as a new group, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. In 1990, the four joined forces with the 1983–88 line-up of Yes—Chris Squire, Alan White, Trevor Rabin, and Tony Kaye—to contribute songs for the Yes album Union.Howe also played the guitar and co-produced Symphonic Music of Yes (1993), an album of orchestral arrangements of Yes tracks. In 1991, he is featured on Polar Shift: A Benefit for Antarctica, a benefit jazz and ambient album to the Cousteau Society. In 1992, Howe left Yes after Bruford, Wakeman and himself were not invited to participate to record the next Yes album, Talk. In 1991 Howe released his third solo album, Turbulence, featuring rock instrumentals that feature Currie, Bruford, and drummer Nigel Glockler and recorded a cover of “Classical Gas” with Bruford. Howe also contributed a flamenco guitar solo to the 1991 UK number one single “Innuendo” by Queen. In 1992 Howe joined the reformed Asia on their album Aqua playing on six of the album’s 13 tracks. Howe released his fourth solo album The Grand Scheme of Things, in August 1993Which features his sons Dylan and Virgil on drums and keyboards and piano. Howe began his first solo tour in 1993 and released his first live album, Not Necessarily Acoustic in 1994 his second live release, Pulling Strings was released in 1998. Howe rejoined Yes for a third time in 1995 for the recording of Keys to Ascension and Keys to Ascension 2, the two double albums containing both live and studio tracks. Since Keys to Ascension, Yes have released released the albums Open Your Eyes, The Ladder, Magnification, Fly from Here and Heaven & Earth.

On 24 May 1996, Howe received an honorary doctorate in Musical Arts (DMA) from Five Towns College in Dix Hills, New York. and played with Asia on a song called Ginger meant for Arena. He also added his guitar to two of the songs from Aura, and released the album Natural Timbre, in 2001. His son Dylan also played the drums on his 1998 all-instrumental solo release, Quantum Guitar, while Elements, released in 2003, featured both Dylan and Virgil as part of Howe’s album Remedy. In 2007, Howe founded the Steve Howe Trio, a jazz band completed by his son Dylan on drums and Ross Stanley on Hammond organ. They released two albums: a studio album, The Haunted Melody in 2008 and a live album, Travelling in 2010. Howe rejoined the other three founding members of Asia in a 25th-anniversary reunion tour in late 2006. Since that time Asia have released a DVD, Fantasia, and a CD, Phoenix. In 2010 Asia released the CD, Omega. The band’s third reunion album entitled XXX was released in July 2012. In 2013, Howe left Asia to focus on Yes, his solo work and his trio. He was replaced by Sam Coulson. In March 2015, Howe released Anthology a two-disc, 33-track collection of Howe’s solo material. I also think all the Yes album covers by Roger Dean are amazing.

Posted in locomotives, Science-tech, steam locomotives, Trains

Isambard Kingdom Brunel FRS

Best known for building dockyards, the Great Western Railway, steamships, bridges, tunnels and revolutionising public transport and modern engineering, the British mechanical and Civil Engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, FRS was born 9 April 1806. When Brunel was eight he was sent to Dr Morrell’s boarding school in Hove, where he learned the classics. His father, was determined that Brunel should have access to the high-quality education he had enjoyed in his youth in France; accordingly, at the age of 14, the younger Brunel was enrolled first at the College of Caen in Normandy, then at Lycée Henri-Quatre in Paris. Sadly his because his Father Marc sent him to expensive schools, he encountered financial problems, however because he was a Prominent engineer the Government intervened on his behalf.When Brunel completed his studies at Henri-Quatre in 1822, he was due to attend the renowned engineering school École Polytechnique, however Brunel studied under the prominent master clockmaker and horologist Abraham-Louis Breguet instead, after he praised Brunel’s potential in letters to his father.In late 1822, having completed his apprenticeship, Brunel returned to England. Brunel worked for several years as an assistant engineer on the hazardous project to create a tunnel under London’s River Thames near Rotherhithe, alongside his Father, who was chief engineer. However cave-ins and severe flooding in 1828 killed a number of Miners a delayed work, with Brunel narrowly escaping death himself.

During Brunel’s life, the use of railways began to take off as a major means of transport for goods. This influenced Brunel’s involvement in railway engineering, including railway bridge engineering. In 1833, before the Thames Tunnel was complete, Brunel was appointed chief engineer of the Great Western Railway, one of the wonders of Victorian Britain, running from London to Bristol and later Exeter.The company was founded at a public meeting in Bristol in 1833, and was incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1835. It was Brunel’s vision that passengers would be able to purchase one ticket at London Paddington and travel from London to New York, changing from the Great Western Railway to the Great Western steamship at the terminus in Neyland, South Wales.He surveyed the entire length of the route between London and Bristol himself, with the help of many including his Solicitor Jeremiah Osborne of Bristol Law Firm Osborne Clarke who one occasion rowed Isambard Kingdom Brunel down the River Avon himself to survey the bank of the river for the route.

Brunel used broad gauge of 7 ft 1⁄4 in (2,140 mm) for the track, despite almost all other railways using standard Gauge, because he believed Standard Gauge would offer superior running at high speeds; he also proved through both calculation and a series of trials that his broader gauge was the optimum size for providing both higher speeds, greater stability, comfort for passengers, and allowed for larger carriages and thus greater freight capacity. Drawing on Brunel’s experience with the Thames Tunnel, the Great Western designed many viaducts such as the one in Ivybridge, specially designed stations, and vast tunnels including the Box Tunnel, which was the longest railway tunnel in the world at that time. Brunel also ordered many Locomotives to his own specification including “North Star” and 20-year-old Daniel Gooch (later Sir Daniel) was appointed as Superintendent of Locomotive Engines. Brunel and Gooch chose to locate their locomotive works at the village of Swindon.

Brunel also designed many bridges including the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. Spanning over 700 ft (210 m), and nominally 200 ft (61 m) above the River Avon, after submitting his designs to a committee headed by Thomas Telford, who rejected all entries, in favour of his own design, until the Public voted in favour of Brunel’s design. Brunel also designed the Maidenhead Railway Bridge. Work also started on the Clifton suspension bridge in 1831, but was suspended due to the Queen Square Riots, However Thanks to colleagues at the Institute of Civil Engineers Work recommenced in 1862 and was completed in 1864, five years after Brunel’s death. The Clifton Suspension Bridge still stands today and over 4 million vehicles traverse it every year.

Brunel also designed the Royal Albert Bridge spanning the River Tamar at Saltash near Plymouth, Somerset Bridge (an unusual laminated timber-framed bridge near Bridgwater, the Windsor Railway Bridge. The Maidenhead Railway Bridge over the Thames in Berkshire is still carrying main line trains to the west, even though today’s trains are about ten times heavier than in Brunel’s time.In 1845 Hungerford Bridge, a suspension footbridge across the Thames near Charing Cross Station in London, was opened. It was replaced by a new railway bridge in 1859, and the suspension chains were used to complete the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Brunel also designed the Royal Albert Bridge in 1855 for the Cornwall Railway, this consists of two main spans of 455 ft (139 m), 100 ft (30 m) above mean high spring tide, plus 17 much shorter approach spans. Opened by Prince Albert on 2 May 1859, it was completed in the year of Brunel’s death.

In 1830, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and On 5 July 1836, Brunel married Mary Elizabeth Horsley (b. 1813), who came from an accomplished musical and artistic family, being the eldest daughter of composer and organist William Horsley. They established a home at Duke Street, Westminster, in London. In 1843, while performing a conjuring trick for the amusement of his children, Brunel accidentally inhaled a half-sovereign coin, which became lodged in his windpipe. A special pair of forceps failed to remove it, as did a machine devised by Brunel to shake it loose. At the suggestion of his father, Brunel was strapped to a board and turned upside-down, and the coin was jerked free. He recuperated at Teignmouth, and enjoyed the area so much that he purchased an estate at Watcombe in Torquay, Devon. Here he designed Brunel Manor and its gardens to be his retirement home. Sadly He never saw the house or gardens finished, as he died before it was completed. Brunel, a heavy smoker, suffered a stroke in 1859, just before the Great Eastern made her first voyage to New York. He died ten days later at the age of 53 and was buried, like his father, in Kensal Green Cemetery in London.He left behind his wife Mary and three children: Isambard Brunel Junior (1837–1902), Henry Marc Brunel (1842–1903) and Florence Mary Brunel (1847–1876). Henry Marc followed his father and grandfather in becoming a successful civil engineer.

Posted in aviation

BAC Concorde

BAC Concorde

The first UK- built turbojet-powered supersonic passenger jet Concorde 002 flew from Filton to RAF Fairford on 9 April 1969, piloted by Brian Trubshaw. . Construction of two prototypes began in February 1965: 001, built by Aérospatiale at Toulouse, and 002, by BAC at Filton, Bristol. Concorde 001 made its first test flight from Toulouse on 2 March 1969, piloted by André Turcat,and first went supersonic on 1 October. Both prototypes were presented to the public for the first time on 7–8 June 1969 at the Paris Air Show. As the flight programme progressed, 001 embarked on a sales and demonstration tour on 4 September 1971, which was also the first transatlantic crossing of Concorde. Concorde 002 followed suit on 2 June 1972 with a tour of the Middle and Far East.Concorde 002 made the first visit to the United States in 1973, landing at the new Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Airport to mark that airport’s opening.

Concorde was jointly developed and manufactured by Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) under an Anglo-French treaty. Concorde’s name, meaning harmony or union, reflects the cooperation on the project between the United Kingdom and France. In the UK, any or all of the type are known simply as “Concorde”, without an article. Twenty aircraft were built including six prototypes and development aircraft. Air France (AF) and British Airways (BA) each received seven aircraft. The research and development failed to make a profit and the two then state-owned airlines bought the aircraft at a huge discount.

Among other destinations, Concorde flew regular transatlantic flights from London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to New York-JFK, Washington Dulles and Barbados; it flew these routes in less than half the time of other airliners. Over time, the aircraft became profitable when it found a customer base willing to pay for flights on what was for most of its career the fastest commercial airliner in the world. The aircraft is regarded by many as an aviation icon and an engineering marvel. While Concorde had initially held a great deal of customer interest, the project was hit by a large number of order cancellations. The Paris Le Bourget air show crash of the competing Soviet Tupolev Tu-144 had shocked potential buyers, and public concern over the environmental issues presented by a supersonic aircraft – the sonic boom, take-off noise and pollution – had produced a shift in public opinion of SSTs. By 1976 four nations remained as prospective buyers: Britain, France, China, and Iran.[45] Only Air France and British Airways (the successor to BOAC) took up their orders, with the two governments taking a cut of any profits made.

The United States cancelled the Boeing 2707, its rival supersonic transport programme, in 1971. Observers have suggested that opposition to Concorde on grounds of noise pollution had been encouraged by the United States Government, as it lacked its own competitor. The US, India, and Malaysia all ruled out Concorde supersonic flights over the noise concern, although some of these restrictions were later relaxed. Professor Douglas Ross characterised restrictions placed upon Concorde operations by President Jimmy Carter’s administration as having been an act of protectionism of American aircraft manufacturers. Concorde flew to an altitude of 68,000 ft (20,700 m) during a test flight in June 1973.

Sadly Concorde had considerable difficulties that led to its dismal sales performance. Costs had spiralled during development to more than six times the original projections, arriving at a unit cost of £23 million in 1977. World events had also dampened Concorde sales prospects, the 1973 oil crisis made many airlines think twice about aircraft with high fuel consumption rates; and new wide-body aircraft, such as the Boeing 747, had recently made subsonic aircraft significantly more efficient and presented a low-risk option for airlines. While carrying a full load, Concorde achieved 15.8 passenger miles per gallon of fuel, while the Boeing 707 reached 33.3 pm/g, the Boeing 747 46.4 pm/g, and the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 53.6 pm/g. An emerging trend in the industry in favour of cheaper airline tickets had also caused airlines such as Qantas to question Concorde’s market suitability.

Concorde operated until 2003. It had a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 km/h at cruise altitude), with seating for 92 to 128 passengers. First flown in 1969, Concorde entered service in 1976 and continued flying for the next 27 years. It is one of only two supersonic transports to have been operated commercially; the other is the Soviet-built Tupolev Tu-144, which was operated for a much shorter period of time.Concorde retired due to a general downturn in the commercial aviation industry after the type’s only crash in 2000, the September 11 attacks in 2001, and a decision by Airbus, the successor to Aérospatiale and BAC, to discontinue maintenance support.

Posted in Art, books

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

English Poet, illustrator and translator Dante Gabriel Rossetti sadly passed away 9 April 1882. Born 12 May 1828 Like all his siblings, he aspired to be a poet and attended King’s College School, in its original location near the Strand. He also wished to be a painter, having shown a great interest in Medieval Italian art. He studied at Henry Sass’s Drawing Academy from 1841 to 1845 when he enrolled at the Antique School of the Royal Academy, leaving in 1848. After leaving the Royal Academy, Rossetti studied under Ford Madox Brown, with whom he retained a close relationship throughout his life. Following the exhibition of William Holman Hunt’s painting The Eve of St. Agnes, Rossetti sought out Hunt’s friendship. The painting illustrated a poem by the little-known John Keats. Rossetti’s own poem, “The Blessed Damozel”, was an imitation of Keats, and he believed Hunt might share his artistic and literary ideals. Together they developed the philosophy of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood which they founded along with John Everett Millais. The group’s intention was to reform English art by rejecting what they considered to be the mechanistic approach first adopted by the Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo and the formal training regime introduced by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Their approach was to return to the abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art. For the first issue of the brotherhood’s magazine, The Germ, published early in 1850, Rossetti contributed a poem, “The Blessed Damozel”, and a story about a fictional early Italian artist inspired by a vision of a woman who bids him combine the human and the divine in his art.Rossetti was always more interested in the medieval than in the modern side of the movement, working on translations of Dante and other medieval Italian poets, and adopting the stylistic characteristics of the early Italians.

He started out painting in oils with water-colour brushes, as thinly as in water-colour, on canvas which he had primed with white till the surface was a smooth as cardboard, and every tint remained transparent. I saw at once that he was not an orthodox boy, but acting purely from the aesthetic motive. The mixture of genius and dilettantism of both men shut me up for the moment, and whetted my curiosity.Stung by criticism of his second major painting, Ecce Ancilla Domini, exhibited in 1850, and the “increasingly hysterical critical reaction that greeted Pre-Raphaelitism” that year, Rossetti turned to watercolours. Although his work subsequently won support from John Ruskin. For many years, Rossetti worked on English translations of Italian poetry including Dante Alighieri’s La Vita Nuova . These and Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur inspired his art of the 1850s. He created a method of painting in watercolours, using thick pigments mixed with gum to give rich effects similar to medieval illuminations. He also developed a novel drawing technique in pen-and-ink. His first published illustration was “The Maids of Elfen-Mere” (1855), for a poem by his friend William Allingham. Rossetti also painted the upper wall of the Oxford Union debating-hall with scenes from Le Morte d’Arthur and to decorate the roof between the open timbers. Seven artists were recruited,and the work was hastily begun and they are now barely visible. Rossetti also contributed two illustrations to the 1857 edition of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Poems and illustrations for works by his sister Christina Rossetti.His visions of Arthurian romance and medieval design also inspired William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones who were much influenced by his works, and met him by recruiting him as a contributor to their Oxford and Cambridge Magazine which Promoted his ideas about art and poetry.

Around 1860, Rossetti returned to oil painting, abandoning the dense medieval of the 1850s in favour of powerful close-up images of women in flat pictorial spaces characterised by dense colour. These paintings became a major influence on the development of the European Symbolist movement. Rossetti’s depiction of women became almost obsessively stylised. He portrayed his new lover Fanny Cornforth as the epitome of physical eroticism, whilst Jane Burden, the wife of his business partner William Morris, was glamorised as an ethereal goddess. “As in Rossetti’s previous reforms, the new kind of subject appeared, These new works were based on the Italian High Renaissance artists of Venice, Titian and Veronese.In 1861, Rossetti became a founding partner in the decorative arts firm, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. with Morris, Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown, Philip Webb, Charles Faulkner and Peter Paul Marshall.Rossetti contributed designs for stained glass and other decorative objects. Sadly Rossetti’s wife Elizabeth Siddal died of an overdose of laudanum in 1862, shortly after giving birth to a stillborn child. Rossetti became increasingly depressed, and on the death of his beloved Lizzie, buried the bulk of his unpublished poems with her at Highgate Cemetery, though he later had them dug up. He idealised her image as Dante’s Beatrice in a number of paintings, such as Beata Beatrix. Rossetti lived in Chelsea for 20 years surrounded by extravagant furnishings and a parade of exotic birds and animals and was fascinated with wombats, frequently visiting the “Wombat’s Lair” at the London Zoo in Regent’s Park. In September 1869 he acquired the first of two pet wombats, which he named “Top”. Rossetti’s fascination with exotic animals continued throughout his life, culminating in the purchase of a llama and a toucan.

Rossetti also maintained Fanny Cornforth (described delicately by William Allington as Rossetti’s “housekeeper” inher own establishment nearby in Chelsea, and painted many voluptuous images of her.In 1865 he discovered auburn-haired Alexa Wilding, a dressmaker and would-be actress who was engaged to model for him on a full-time basis and sat for The Blessed Damozel and other paintings. Rossetti also used Jane Morris,as a model for the Oxford Union murals he painted with William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones in 1857, and she also sat for him during these years, she “consumed and obsessed him in paint, poetry, and life”. Rossetti was prevailed upon by Charles Augustus Howell, to exhume his poems from his wife’s grave which he did, collating and publishing them in 1870 in the volume Poems by D. G. Rossetti. This included the poems Nuptial Sleep, the House of Life and The Ballad of Dead Ladies which all created offence and controversy With their eroticism and sensuality but became Rossetti’s most substantial literary achievement. In 1881, Rossetti published a second volume of poems, Ballads and Sonnets, which included the remaining sonnets from The House of Life sequence. Unfortunately The savage reaction of critics to Rossetti’s first collection of poetry contributed to a mental breakdown in June 1872. After he recovered he began creating a soulful series of dream-like portraits featuring Alexa Wilding and Jane Morris

He spent his last days at Cheyne Walk battling deppression , exacerbated by his drug addiction to chloral hydrate and increasing mental instability, until finally On Easter Sunday, 1882, he died at the country house of a friend, where he had gone in a vain attempt to recover his health, which had been destroyed by chloral as his wife’s had been destroyed by laudanum. He died of Brights Disease, a disease of the kidneys from which he had been suffering for some time. He is buried at Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, England. His work influenced went on to influence many including the European Symbolists and the Aesthetic movement. Rossetti’s art was characterised by its sensuality and its medieval revivalism. His early poetry was influenced by John Keats. Among his most famous paintings are he Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849) and Astarte Syriaca (1877). He also created art to illustrate poems such as Goblin Market by his sister, the celebrated poet Christina Rossetti.