Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Calvert, Edward

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CALVERT, EDWARD (1799–1883), artist, was a native of Appledore in Devonshire, where he was born on 20 Sept. 1799. The first years of his life were passed near Starcross. His father, Roland Calvert, who had been in the army, died when Edward was twelve years old. He early entered the navy and served as midshipman under Sir Charles Penrose. While on board he saw his dearest shipmate killed at his side during an action. He soon after left service to devote himself to the arts. He studied under James Ball and A. B. Johns, the latter a landscape-painter of repute at Plymouth. After his marriage with Miss Bennell of Brixton he removed to London and attended the Royal Academy schools. Before long he made the acquaintance of William Blake, and joined a little band of artists who reverenced Blake as their chief, including Samuel Palmer, Linnell the elder, and George Richmond. Blake's designs exercised considerable influence over Calvert. He was one of the few friends who attended Blake's interment in 1827. His first exhibited picture was at the Royal Academy in 1825. It was called ‘Nymphs,’ and excited much warm admiration. At the same gallery he exhibited in 1827 his picture ‘A Shepherdess.’ In 1829 he sent ‘Morning’ to the exhibition of the Society of British Artists, Suffolk Street. Another poetic landscape with the same title was exhibited by him at the Royal Academy in 1832, and a third in 1835. His last contribution to the Academy exhibition was in 1836, when his picture illustrated Milton's ‘Eve.’ Calvert produced many woodcuts and plates of singular beauty, which were privately printed by himself at his successive residences in Brixton and Paddington. He was extremely fastidious, and, though incessantly at work, was always dissatisfied with the result and destroyed some of his blocks and plates. Of his woodcuts the ‘Christian Ploughing the last Furrow of Life’ and the ‘Cider Press’ are described as very like Blake's. Calvert was a thorough student of anatomy, and also spent some time in St. Thomas's Hospital during the cholera of 1830. He was an enthusiast for Greek art, and once visited Greece, returning with many sketches. Among his intimate friends were Derwent Coleridge and Francis Oliver Finch, the landscape-painter. In honour of the latter he wrote an éloge, which is printed in the ‘Memorials’ of that artist published in 1865.

Calvert died at Hackney on 14 July 1883, in his eighty-fourth year, and was buried at Abney Park cemetery.

[Athenæum, 18 and 25 Aug. 1883, the latter notice by George Richmond, R.A.; Gilchrist's Life of W. Blake, 1880, i. 343, 407; Graves's Dict. of Artists, 1760–1880; Royal Academy Catalogues; private information through Mr. John Richmond.]

C. W. S.