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Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Literature

Literature was integrated into the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood's artistic practice from the beginning (including that of Rossetti), with many paintings making direct literary references.
For example, John Everett Millais' early work, Isabella (1849), depicts an episode from John Keats' Isabella, or, the Pot of Basil (1818).
Rossetti was particularly critical of the gaudy ornamentation of Victorian gift books and sought to refine bindings and illustrations to align with the principles of the Aesthetic Movement.
Rossetti's key bindings were designed between 1861-1871.
He collaborated as a designer/illustrator with his sister, poet Christina Rossetti, on the first edition of Goblin Market (1862) and The Prince's Progress (1866).

One of Rossetti's most prominent contributions to illustration was the collaborative book, Poems by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (published by Edward Moxon in 1857 and known colloquially as the 'Moxon Tennyson'). Moxon envisioned Royal Academicians as the illustrators for the ambitious project, but this vision was quickly disrupted once Millais, a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, became involved in the project.
Millais recruited William Holman Hunt and Rossetti for the project, and the involvement of these artists reshaped the entire production of the book.
In reference to the Pre-Raphaelite illustrations, Laurence Housman wrote "[...] The illustrations of the Pre-Raphaelites were personal and intellectual readings of the poems to which they belonged, not merely echoes in line of the words of the text".

The Pre-Raphaelites’ visualization of Tennyson's poems indicated the range of possibilities in interpreting written works, as did their unique approach to visualizing narrative on the canvas.
Pre-Raphaelite illustrations do not simply refer to the text in which they appear; rather, they are part of a bigger program of art: the book as a whole.

Rossetti's philosophy about the role of illustration was revealed in an 1855 letter to poet William Allingham, when he wrote, in reference to his work on the Moxon Tennyson:

"I have not begun even designing for them yet, but fancy I shall try the Vision of Sin, and Palace of Art etc. - those where one can allegorize on one’s own hook, without killing for oneself and everyone a distinct idea of the poet’s".

This passage makes apparent Rossetti's desire not to just support the poet's narrative, but to create an allegorical illustration that functions separately from the text as well.
In this respect, Pre-Raphaelite illustrations go beyond depicting an episode from a poem, but rather function like subject paintings within a text.
Illustration is not subservient to text and vice versa. Careful and conscientious craftsmanship is practiced in every aspect of production, and each element, though qualifiedly artistic in its own right, contributes to a unified art object (the book). | © Wikipedia