Seddon, Thomas (1821-1856) (DNB00)

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SEDDON, THOMAS (1821–1856), landscape-painter, son of Thomas Seddon, a well-known cabinet-maker, was born in Aldersgate Street, London, on 28 Aug. 1821. He was educated at a school conducted on the Pestalozzian system by the Rev. Joseph Barron at Stanmore, and afterwards entered his father's business, but he found its duties so irksome that in 1841 he was sent to Paris to study ornamental art. He attained great efficiency as a draughtsman, and on his return he made designs for furniture and superintended their execution. In 1848 he gained the prize of a silver medal and twenty pounds offered by the Society of Arts for a design for an ornamental sideboard. He also practised drawing from the life, and in 1849 visited North Wales and stayed some weeks at Bettws-y-Coed; there he began his first real studies of landscape, which he continued in the following year at Barbizon in the forest of Fontainebleau. In 1850 he took an active part in establishing the North London school of drawing and modelling in Camden Town for the instruction of workmen. His first exhibited work, ‘Penelope,’ appeared at the Royal Academy in 1852, but next year he went to Dinan, and, turning his attention to landscape-painting, sent to the Royal Academy a picture of ‘A Valley in Brittany,’ which was followed in 1854 by a large picture of the ruined monastery of ‘Léhon, from Mont Parnasse, Brittany.’ He then, without returning to England, set out to join Mr. William Holman Hunt in Egypt, and reached Alexandria on 6 Dec. 1853. He spent some months in Egypt and in the Holy Land. During his stay at Cairo he painted a portrait of Sir Richard Burton in Arab costume, and made some careful and highly finished studies and sketches of eastern life. His ‘Sunset behind the Pyramids’ was rejected at the Royal Academy in 1855, but three of his oriental pictures, ‘An Arab Sheikh and Tents in the Egyptian Desert,’ ‘Dromedary and Arabs at the City of the Dead, Cairo,’ and an ‘Interior of a Deewan, formerly belonging to the Copt Patriarch, near the Esbekeeyah, Cairo,’ were in the exhibition of 1856. Many commissions followed, and Seddon, after returning to England in 1855, revisited Egypt in quest of fresh materials for his pictures; but within a month of his arrival at Cairo he died of dysentery in the church mission-house there on 23 Nov. 1856. He was buried in the protestant cemetery at Cairo.

Seddon left unfinished a large picture of ‘Arabs at Prayer.’ An exhibition of his works was held at the Society of Arts in 1857, when an appreciative address was delivered by Mr. John Ruskin. His picture of ‘Jerusalem and the Valley of Jehoshaphat from the Hill of Evil Counsel,’ painted on the spot in 1854, was purchased by subscription and presented to the National Gallery. His brother, John Pollard Seddon, the architect, published his ‘Memoir and Letters’ in 1858.

[Memoir and Letters of Thomas Seddon, by his brother, 1858; Athenæum, 1857, i. 19; Redgrave's Dictionary of Artists of the English School, 1878; Journal of the Society of Arts, 1857, pp. 360–2, 419; Royal Academy Exhibition Catalogues, 1852–1856.]

R. E. G.