Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hull, William

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HULL, WILLIAM (1820–1880), artist, born 6 May 1820 at Graffham in Huntingdonshire, was son of a small farmer who removed soon after his son's birth to Keysoe in Bedfordshire, and subsequently to the adjoining village of Pertenhall. Here in the village school William received his early education, and went afterwards for three years to the Moravian settlement of Ockbrook, near Derby, to be educated as a minister of that society. At Ockbrook he had a few lessons in drawing from two Germans named Petersen and Hassé. After spending a year at the settlement at Wellhouse, near Mirfield, Yorkshire, as student and assistant, he went in 1838 to the Moravian establishment at Grace Hill, near Ballymena in Ireland, and made during his stay there many sketches. He spent five weeks in London in 1840, studying pictures and the works of art in the British Museum. A few months afterwards he gave up his position at Grace Hill to become clerk in the printing and lithographic works of Messrs. Bradshaw & Blacklock in Manchester, and studied at the school of design there for a short time. From 1841 to 1844 he travelled in France, Germany, and the Low Countries as tutor to the two sons of Mr. Janvrin, a merchant of St. Heliers in Jersey, and took every opportunity of continuing his study of art. On his return to Manchester in 1844 he contributed two pictures to the exhibition at the Royal Manchester Institution. Thenceforward he devoted himself entirely to painting and sketching, and before his death he reproduced with care and accuracy objects of interest and rural beauty in almost every county in England. His best work is in black and white and sepia, which he handled with marvellous skill. Of the drawings in this style may be instanced the sets of views of Oxford and Cambridge, and the illustrations to 'Charles Dickens and Rochester' engraved by his friend Robert Langton, the author of the book. He also drew some of the illustrations to Earwaker's 'History of East Cheshire,' and his drawings of the mill at Ambleside and Wythburn Church were reproduced in autotype. He etched several plates, some of which appeared as illustrations to books.

His work in colour was at no time wanting in harmony, but, as his friend Mr. Ruskin told him, though the colour was never bad, it was often used too sparingly. He made every effort to overcome this defect, and with some success in his latest works. In 1848 Hull joined the Letherbrow Club, a private literary and artistic society in Manchester, and its twelve manuscript volumes contain a series of letters on art, nature, and travel by him, interspersed with numerous illustrative drawings in pen and ink. He contributed a paper on 'Taste' to `Bradshaw's Magazine,' 1842-3; and in the `Portfolio' for January 1886 there appeared, together with a notice of the artist by Thomas Letherbrow, 'My Winter Quarters, written and illustrated by William Hull.'

He was a member of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts, and took some part in its management. To its exhibitions he was a constant contributor, and studied in its life class. He also exhibited regularly at the exhibitions of the Royal Manchester Institution, and the black and white exhibition held 1877 to 1880. In 1847 he married Mary S. E. Newling, who died without issue in Wales in 1861. In 1850 a stroke of paralysis left Hull lame and deaf. He made his home at Rydal in 1870, and dying there, 15 March 1880, was buried in the churchyard at Grasmere.

[Trans. Manchester Lit. Club, 1880; Manchester City News, 27 March 1880; Portfolio, January 1886.]

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