Cattermole, George (DNB00)

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CATTERMOLE, GEORGE (1800–1868), water-colour painter, born at Dickleborough, near Diss, Norfolk, on 8 Aug. 1800, was youngest child of a large family. His mother died when he was two, and his education was conducted by his father, of independent means. At the age of fourteen, if not before, he was placed with John Britton [q. v.], the antiquary. His brother Richard was at that time, or soon after, employed to draw for Britton's ‘Cathedral Antiquities of England,’ and George also executed drawings for that work. In 1819 he commenced to exhibit at the Royal Academy. In that year, and in 1821, he sent views of Peterborough Cathedral, in 1826 ‘King Henry discovering the relics of King Arthur in Glastonbury Abbey,’ a ‘View near Salisbury,’ and ‘A Lighthouse ——;’ and in 1827 ‘Trial of Queen Catherine,’ his sixth and last contribution to the exhibitions of the Academy. He also during this period (1819–27) exhibited two works at the British Institution. In 1822 he was elected an associate exhibitor of the Society (now the Royal Society) of Painters in Water Colours, and in 1833 he became a full member. It was mainly by his drawings exhibited at the rooms of this society that he established his fame as an artist. Commencing as an architectural draughtsman, but with a mind well stored with history and archæological detail, his imagination soon began to fill with their ancient life the buildings which he drew, and his art was naturally inspired with that romantic spirit which, long felt in literature, had culminated in the novels of Sir Walter Scott. The great romantic movement among the artists of France was simultaneous with the appearance of Cattermole, who may be considered as the ally of Delacroix and Bonington, and as the greatest representative, if not the founder, in England of the art that sought its motives in the restoration of bygone times, with their manners and customs, their architecture and costumes, their chivalrous and religious sentiment, complete. To perform this part he brought a spirit naturally ardent, controlled by a fine and somewhat severe artistic taste, which, without destroying the energy and freedom of his design, permitted neither extravagance nor affectation. He had a gift of colour, a felicity and directness of touch, and a command of his materials, which have never been excelled in his line of art. He treated landscape and architecture with almost equal skill, and though his figures were on a small scale, and often shared but even honours with the scenes in which they were placed, they were always designed with spirit, living in gesture, and right in expression. Among the more important of the drawings exhibited at the Water-colour Society were: ‘After the Sortie,’ 1834; ‘Sir Walter Raleigh witnessing the Execution of the Earl of Essex in the Tower,’ 1839; ‘Wanderers entertained,’ 1839 (engraved by Egan under the title of ‘Old English Hospitality’); ‘The Castle Chapel,’ 1840; ‘Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh preparing to shoot the Regent Murray in 1570,’ 1843; ‘After the second Battle of Newbury,’ 1843; ‘Benvenuto Cellini defending the Castle of St. Angelo,’ 1845; ‘The Unwelcome Return,’ 1846. The last has been said to be ‘perhaps the most extraordinary display of Cattermole's powers in landscape.’ It is of such works as these that Professor Ruskin wrote in the first volume of ‘Modern Painters:’ ‘There are signs in George Cattermole's works of very peculiar gifts, and perhaps also of powerful genius … The antiquarian feeling of C. is pure, earnest, and natural, and I think his imagination originally vigorous; certainly his fancy, his grasp of momentary passion, considerable; his sense of action in the human body, vivid and ready.’ Cattermole withdrew from the Water-colour Society in 1850. Two reasons have been assigned for this step, which was taken in opposition to the wishes of his brother members. One of these was his desire to devote himself to painting in oils, and the other his sensitive organisation, which ‘always made the conditions of exhibition in planning his work peculiarly irksome to him.’ The latter reason may also have induced him to refuse the presidency of this society, which was offered to him about the date of his retirement, and to resist the repeated requests of the members to return to their ranks.

During these years Cattermole was much employed in illustrations for books. In 1830 he travelled in Scotland to make sketches of the buildings and scenery introduced by Scott into his novels, to be used some years afterwards in a finely illustrated volume called ‘Scott and Scotland.’ In 1834 appeared ‘The Calendar of Nature,’ a little book with woodcuts, principally landscape; in 1836 came Thomas Roscoe's ‘Wanderings and Excursions in North Wales;’ in 1840–1 Cattermole's well-known illustrations to ‘Master Humphrey's Clock;’ and here it may be mentioned that the picturesque design of the Maypole Inn in ‘Barnaby Rudge’ was entirely the invention of the artist, instead of being drawn from an existing inn at Chigwell as has been supposed. In 1841 appeared the first, and in 1845 the second, volume of ‘Cattermole's Historical Annual—the Great Civil War of Charles I and the Parliament,’ which contained twenty-eight steel engravings by the best engravers of the day after drawings by Cattermole, and was produced under the superintendence of Charles Heath, who published the second volume as ‘Heath's Picturesque Annual’ for 1845. The literary part was written by his brother, the Rev. Richard Cattermole [q. v.] In 1846 was published another volume, beautifully illustrated in the same manner, called ‘Evenings at Haddon Hall,’ with letterpress written to the drawings by the Baroness de Calabrella.

Among other works to which he contributed illustrations were J. P. Lawson's ‘Scotland delineated’ (1847–54), and S. C. Hall's ‘Baronial Halls of England’ (1848). He also published a work in two parts called ‘Cattermole's Portfolio of Original Drawings,’ in which Mr. Hullmandel's process of lithotint (brought to perfection by Cattermole and J. D. Harding) was employed, each part containing ten plates.

Cattermole was naturally of a lively disposition, and full of spirit. As a young man, he was an excellent whip, and fond of driving stage-coaches. In his bachelor days he was a frequent visitor at Gore House, and mixed with the fashionable world of art and literature which gathered round the Countess of Blessington and Count d'Orsay. There he met among others Carlyle and Dickens, and Prince Louis, afterwards the Emperor Napoleon III. For some years before his marriage he had resided in the Albany in the chambers once occupied by Byron and Bulwer Lytton. In July 1839, soon after the completion of his drawing of the ‘Diet of Spiers,’ well known through the large engraving by William Walker, he received the offer of knighthood, which he refused. In the following month (20 Aug.) he married Clarissa Hester Elderton, a daughter of James Elderton, deputy remembrancer, &c. of the court of exchequer, and took a house at Clapham Rise, where he resided till 1863. Among his intimate friends were Thackeray and Dickens, Macready and Maclise, Douglas Jerrold and Talfourd, Stanfield and Landseer, Browning and Macaulay, Lytton and Disraeli (Lord Beaconsfield). In his life of Dickens, John Forster says: ‘Another painter friend was George Cattermole, who had then enough and to spare of fun, as well as fancy, to supply a dozen artists.’ Numerous letters exist to testify to the affection between himself and Dickens, in whose amateur theatricals he often took part. In 1845 he specially distinguished himself in the character of Wellbred in ‘Every Man in his Humour,’ which was acted before the prince consort at ‘Miss Kelly's,’ now (1887) the Royalty Theatre, Dean Street, Soho.

After his retirement from the Water-colour Society, though still painting his old subjects in his old medium, he devoted himself a good deal to painting in oil-colours, and to scenes from Bible history. A large oil-painting of Macbeth belongs to this period, of which he said that it was the only work of his in which he had realised his own intention; and among the drawings which were in his possession at his death were cartoons of the ‘Raising of Lazarus,’ the ‘Marriage at Cana,’ and ‘The Last Supper.’

In 1863 he moved to 4 The Cedars Road, Clapham Common; and in September of that year he received from India the tidings of the death of his eldest son, Lieutenant Ernest George Cattermole, who died at Umballa while doing duty with the 22nd native infantry. He had shortly before lost his youngest daughter, and after this second shock a fearful depression fell upon him, from which he never recovered. He retired much from society, and after some years of continual brooding over his loss, he died on 24 July 1868. He was buried in Norwood cemetery. He left a widow, three sons, and four daughters. Of these, all except one son (Edward) are living. Leonardo Cattermole, the eldest surviving son, is well known for the grace and spirit of his pictures of horses.

Cattermole's reputation as an artist was not confined to his own country. The ‘Historical Annual’ was published in New York and Paris. At the French International Exhibition of 1855 he received one of the two grandes médailles d'honneur awarded to English artists, Sir Edwin Landseer taking the other. In the following year he was elected a member of the Royal Academy of Amsterdam, and of the Society of Water-colour Painters at Brussels.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists (1878); Graves's Dict. of Artists; Clement and Hutton's Artists of the Nineteenth Century; Forster's Life of Dickens; Miss Hogarth's Letters of Charles Dickens; Ruskin's Modern Painters; The Annals of the Fine Arts; Catalogues of the Royal Academy and Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours; Art Journal, July 1857, September 1868, March 1870; Men of the Time; works mentioned in the article and communications from the family.]

C. M.