Callcott, Augustus Wall (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CALLCOTT, Sir AUGUSTUS WALL (1779–1844), landscape painter, was born in the Mall, Kensington Gravel Pits, 20 Feb. 1779. He was brother of Dr. Callcott the musician [q. v.], and in early life exhibited a taste for music as well as for drawing, and was for six years a chorister in Westminster Abbey, earning 7l. a year and 3½ yards of ‘coarse black baize.’ He then became a student of the Royal Academy, and commenced his artistic career as a painter of portraits under the tuition of Hoppner. The first picture he exhibited was a portrait of Miss Roberts, and its success at the Royal Academy in 1799 is said to have led to his final choice of painting as a profession. His preference for landscape, including river and coast scenery, soon showed itself, and after 1804 he exhibited nothing but landscapes for many years. The skill of his execution, the elegance of his design, and the charming tone of his works caused his reputation to rise steadily. In 1806 he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, and in 1810 a full member. The care which he bestowed upon his pictures restricted their number. From 1805 to 1810 he exhibited about four pictures a year, in 1811 ten, and in 1812 six. From that year to 1822 he exhibited but seven works in all, but among these were some of his best and largest, such as ‘The Entrance to the Pool of London’ (1816), ‘The Mouth of the Tyne’ (1818), and ‘A Dead Calm on the Medway’ (1820). Another important picture was ‘Rochester’ (1824). Though his subjects down to this time were generally taken from the scenery of his own country, he had visited France and Holland and had painted some Dutch and Flemish scenes before 1827, a date of much importance in his life, for in this year he married and went to Italy for the first time. His wife was the widow of Captain Graham, R.N., a lady who had already attained considerable literary reputation [see Callcott, Maria, Lady]. On their return from Italy they took up their residence at the Gravel Pits, where he resided till his death, enjoying great popularity. In 1830 he commenced to exhibit Italian compositions, and after this year the subjects of his pictures were generally foreign. Though to the last his works were marked by charm of composition and sweetness of execution, those produced before 1827 are now held in most esteem.

On the accession of her majesty in 1837, Callcott received the honour of knighthood. In that year he departed from his usual class of subjects, and exhibited a picture of ‘Raffaelle and the Fornarina,’ with life-size figures, finished with great care, which was engraved by Lumb Stocks for the London Art Union in 1843. This and ‘Milton dictating to his Daughters,’ exhibited in 1840, were the most important of his figure paintings, of which rare class of his work the South Kensington Museum (Sheepshanks Collection) contains two specimens, ‘Anne Page and Slender’ and ‘Falstaff and Simple.’ The museum also possesses several landscapes in oil and sketches in water colour, &c. The figures in his landscapes were often important parts of the composition, and were always gracefully designed and happily placed, as, for instance, in ‘Dutch Peasants returning from Market,’ one of nine examples of this master left by Mr. Vernon to the nation. In 1844 he succeeded Mr. Seguier as conservator of the royal pictures. He died in the same year on 25 Nov., and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery. There are true artistic qualities in Callcott's work, which justified the admiration of such painters as Turner and Stothard in his day, and must always preserve for him a distinguished place among the earlier masters of the English school of landscape. As a man he was greatly esteemed for the amiability of his disposition, his generosity and want of prejudice in his profession, and his liberal patronage of younger artists.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists (1878); Redgraves' Century of Painters; Bryan's Dict. of Painters (Graves); Art Journal, 1845.]

C. M.