Calderon, Philip Hermogenes (DNB01)
|←Cairns, John||Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement
Calderon, Philip Hermogenes
CALDERON, PHILIP HERMOGENES (1833–1898), painter, was born at Poitiers on 3 May 1833. He was the only son of the Reverend Juan Calderon (1791–1854), a native of La Mancha and a member of the same family as the celebrated Spanish dramatist, though not his direct descendant. Juan Calderon had been a priest in the Roman catholic church; he left Spain on becoming a protestant, and was married at Bayonne to Marguerite Chappelle. He subsequently settled in London as professor of Spanish literature at King's College, and minister to the community of the Spanish reformed church resident in London. Philip Calderon, who came to England at the age of twelve, was educated mainly by his father. After beginning life as the pupil of a civil engineer, the lad showed so strong a taste
for drawing that it was decided to let him become a painter. He studied at the British Museum and the National Gallery, and in 1850 entered J. M. Leigh's art school in Newman Street, where he began to paint in oils from the life, generally by gaslight. In 1851 he went to Paris and studied under François Edouard Picot, one of the best teachers of his time, who compelled his pupil to draw from the model in chalk with great exactness, and would not allow him to paint. A year of this training made Calderon a firm and rapid draughtsman, with a thorough knowledge of form. During 1852 Henry Stacy Marks [q. v. Suppl.] was his companion for five months in the Rue des Martyrs, Montmartre.
On returning to London Calderon worked in the evenings at Leigh's school, while he copied Veronese and Rubens on students' days at the National Gallery. In 1853 he exhibited his first picture, 'By the Waters of Babylon,' at the Royal Academy. He exhibited there again in 1855 and at other galleries in 1856. He painted many portraits about this time, but did not exhibit them. In 1857 lie made his name at the academy by his picture, 'Broken Vows,' which was engraved in mezzotint by W. H. Simmons in 1859, and became very popular. In 1858 he exhibited ' The Gaoler's Daughter' and 'Flora Macdonald's Farewell to Charles Edward.' Works of less importance, shown in 1859 and 1860, were followed by two pictures in 1861, 'La Demande en Mariage' and 'Liberating Prisoners on the Young Heir's Birthday,' which greatly increased his reputation. He gained the silver medal of the Society of Arts for the former picture, which is now in Lord Lansdowne's collection. 'After the Battle' (1862) made a still deeper impression, and revealed in Calderon a master of pathos. The second picture of this year, 'Catherine of Aragon and her Women at Work,' was another success. All his best qualities were exhibited in 'The British Embassy in Paris on the Day of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew' (1863). In July 1864 he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy. His pictures that year were 'The Burial of Hampden' and 'In the Cloisters at Aries.' In 1860 he exhibited what has been described as his masterpiece, 'Her Most High, Noble, and Puissant Grace,' a picture of a little princess parsing, with musicians and heralds, along a gallery hung with arras, and followed by ladies and courtiers. This picture was exhibited at the international exhibition at Paris in 1867, and the painter obtained for it the only gold medal awarded to an English artist. When it appeared at Christie's in the year of the artist's death it fetched a sum considerably below its original price. It was included, with 'Aphrodite,' in the winter exhibition of the Royal Academy, 1901. In 'Home after Victory' (1867) the background was a careful study of the courtyard at Hever Castle, Kent, which the painter had occupied for three months in 1866 with his artist friends, Mr. W. F. Yeames (now R.A.) and D. W. Wynfield (d. 1887). These three, with the addition of Mr. George D. Leslie, R.A., Mr. George A. Storey, R.A., and the late academicians, Henry Stacy Marks and John Evan Hodgson [q. V. Suppl.], composed a group which was known from about 1862 to 1887, when its members were dispersed, as the 'St. John's Wood school' or 'clique.' All the members except Mr. Leslie and Mr. Yeames had been, like Calderon, pupils at Leigh's; they looked up to him as their leader, and he was the organiser of many outings and social entertainments in which the 'clique' took part (Marks, Pen and Pencil Sketches, 1894, i. chap. 9-10).
Calderon's chief academy picture of 1868 was 'The Young Lord Hamlet riding on Yorick's Back;' it was accompanied by 'Œnone' and 'Whither.' The last-named picture, painted at Hever, was the painter's diploma work, for he had been elected an academician on 22 June 1867. In 1869 he exhibited 'Sighing his Soul into his Lady's Face,' and in 1870 'Spring driving away Winter.' 'On her Way to the Throne' appeared in 1871. Later works of importance were 'A High-born Maiden,' 'Les Coquettes, Aries,' 'The Queen of the Tournaments,' and 'Home they brought her Warrior dead' (1877). The last-named work was exhibited, with six others, at the Paris exhibition of 1878, when Calderon obtained another gold medal and the decoration of the legion of honour.
Calderon had been exhibiting meanwhile at other galleries in England. 'Drink to me only with thine Eyes' appeared with other pictures at the French Gallery, while 'Aphrodite' was one of the best of his Grosvenor Gallery pictures. Calderon, too, like other members of the 'St. John's Wood school,' took a prominent part in the exhibitions — of water-colours in the spring and oil-paintings in the winter — which were held at the Dudley Gallery from 1864 to 1882. After 1870 he returned to the practice of portrait-painting and exhibited many portraits at the Royal Academy, among the most remarkable of which were those of Stacy Marks and the Marquis and Marchioness of Waterford, In 1887 Calderon was elected keeper of the Royal Academy, in which capacity he was closely concerned with the management of the academy schools, so that he found less time thenceforth for painting. As this appointment carried with it an official residence in Burlington House, Calderon now left St. John's Wood, where he had resided in Marlborough Road, Grove End Road, and elsewhere, ever since his return from Paris. In 1889 he exhibited 'Home,' and in 1891 the most famous of his later works, 'The Renunciation of St. Elizabeth of Hungary,' a subject from Kingsley's 'Saint's Tragedy,' which was purchased for 1,200l. by the council of the Royal Academy out of the funds of the Chantrey bequest. The representation of the saint as a nude figure kneeling before the altar gave great offence, especially in Roman catholic circles. The picture is now in the National Gallery of British Art, Millbank. Other late pictures were 'Elizabeth Woodville parting with the Duke of York' (1893), now in the Queensland Art Gallery at Brisbane; 'Ariadne' (1895); 'The Olive,' 'The Vine,' and 'The Flowers of the Earth,' decorative subjects painted for the dining-room of Sir John Aird, M.P., at 14 Hyde Park Terrace; 'Ruth' and 'The Answer' (1897).
After a protracted illness Calderon died at Burlington House on 30 April 1898, and was buried on 4 May at Kensal Green cemetery.
By his marriage, which took place in May 1860, with Clara, daughter of James Payne Storey and sister of Mr. G. A. Storey, R.A., Calderon left two daughters and six sons, the third of whom is the painter, Mr. William Frank Calderon, director of the well-known school of animal painting and anatomy in Baker Street. The portrait of Calderon, still in the possession of the painter, Mr. G. F. Watts, R.A., is that of a man of distinguished and picturesque appearance, showing his Spanish blood.
Calderon's admirable draughtsmanship and sound technique secured the esteem of artists for his work. He probably owed much of his popularity with the general public to his choice of subjects. Most of his pictures tell a story, usually one of his own invention, sometimes a subject from history or literature. He resembled Millais in his power of representing a dramatic or pathetic incident, usually with few actors on the scene, with a simplicity which appealed at once to the intelligence and the sympathy of the crowd which frequents the Royal Academy exhibitions. The success of his pictures was assisted by their bright and agreeable colouring. Most of them are in private hands; 'Ruth and Naomi' is in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. A collection of English paintings, formed by Mr. G. C. Schwabe and presented to the Kunsthalle of his native town of Hamburg, includes several pictures by Calderon — 'La Gloire de Dijon,' 'Desdemona and Emilia,' 'Captives of his Bow and Spear,' 'Sighing his Soul into his Lady's Face,' portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Schwabe, and others.
[Tom Taylor in the Portfolio, 1870, i. 97; Athenæum, 7 May 1898; G. A. Storey, A.R.A., in the Magazine of Art, 1898, p. 446; private information.]