Sir Edward Burne-Jones was preparing for a career in the church when he met Dante Gabriel Rossetti who encouraged him to become an artist instead. Burne-Jones had no formal academic training and as a result developed a style that was very unique. He used medieval and early Italian Renaissance painters as inspiration and relied upon legends, myths, and spiritual stories for much of his subject matter.
Burne-Jones began using oddly proportioned canvases to accommodate his tall languid androgynous (not clearly masculine or feminine) characters. His narrow palette (small range of colors he used for his paintings) and flat style did not suit the Royal Academy, forcing him to show his paintings in galleries.
By 1885 Burne-Jones started becoming popular at auctions. It was also in 1885 that the Royal Academy decided to offer him an Associate membership. With great deal of hesitation he agreed, only to resign eight years later. By 1893, he felt that he would never be accepted as an Academician (even though no one below him had been promoted). He wrote a touching letter to his good friend Alma-Tadema explaining, "You see, dear friend, I am particularly made by nature not to like Academies. I went to one when I was a little boy, and didn't like it then, and thought I was free for ever when I grew up, when suddenly one day I had to go to an Academy again - and now I've run away," (Hutchison 145).
Burne-Jones was a quiet man who avoided crowds. He seemed to many to live in another, more spiritual world. His paintings were full of mystical imagery and symbolic colors.
After leaving the Royal Academy, Burne-Jones began strongly associating with the Aesthetic Movement that vowed to create "art for art's sake." He enjoyed a great success at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1889 and received the first class medal. His Briar Rose series in 1890 also brought him a good deal of fame. He was granted baroncy in 1894.
Primary sources: The Pre-Raphaelites by Sandra Forty,
Barnes and Noble Books, 1997, pg 20-21
History of the Royal Academy 1768-1968 by Sidney Hutchison, Taplinger Publishing, 1968, pg 144-145