Painter and poet, Rossetti was a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He was born in London the son of the poet Gabriele Rossetti (1783 - 1854), and Frances Mary Lavinia Polidori Rossetti. Thus Rossetti's background was essentially Italian. From 1836 to 1843 he studied at the King's College School, London. Between the years 1843 and 1846 he attended Cary's Art Academy, and entered the Royal Academy in 1848 where he spent an unfruitful period.
For many years Rossetti was known as a painter. He idealized his subjects, employing the literary themes of medieval romances to do so. In most of Rossetti's early pictures his archetypal ladies were based upon his wife, the beautiful Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal. He had met her in 1850, and they married in 1860 when she was already in poor health. He encouraged her in her own painting and writing. She modeled for him and many others in his circle - perhaps the most impressive portrait is the drowned Ophelia in Millais's painting. After his wife died of an overdose of laudanum in 1862, Rossetti buried the only complete manuscript of his poems with her. The manuscript was later recovered and published in 1870. It included most of his best verse and established his reputation as a poet. Although Rossetti had not been a faithful to Elizabeth, her loss left an increasing sadness in his work.
Rossetti died in 1882 at the age of 53.