Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thomas, George Housman

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THOMAS, GEORGE HOUSMAN (1824–1868), painter, was born in London on 17 Dec. 1824. After serving his apprenticeship to the wood-engraver George Bonner in London, he began his professional career in Paris, first as an engraver, afterwards as a draughtsman on the wood. In 1846 he went to the United States to illustrate a New York paper, and remained there about two years. During this time he obtained a commission from the government of the United States to design bank-notes. His health compelled him to return to Europe, and he went to Italy. He was present, at the siege of Rome by the French in 1849, and sent many sketches of the siege to the 'Illustrated London News'. After spending two years in Italy he returned to England. About 1850 he produced a remarkable set of woodcuts for 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'. He also illustrated very many other books, including Longfellow's 'Hiawatha', Foxe's 'Book of Martyrs', and Trollope's 'Last Chronicle of Barset'. He exhibited his first picture, 'St. Anthony's Day at Rome', at the British Institution in 1851; 'Garibaldi at Rome,' painted from sketches made in 1849, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1854, and attracted much attention. His next picture was 'Ball at the Camp, Boulogne,' 1856. He obtained the patronage of Queen Victoria, and painted the following pictures by her majesty's command: 'Distribution of Crimean Medals, 18 May 1855,' 1858; 'Review in the Champ de Mars in Honour of Queen Victoria,' 1859: 'Parade at Potsdam, 17 Aug. 1858,' 1860; 'Marriage of the Prince of Wales,' 'Homage of the Princess Royal at the Coronation of the King of Prussia,' and Marriage of the Princess Alice,' 1863; 'The Queen and Prince Consort at Aldershot, 1859,' 1866; 'The Children of Princess Alice, 1866; 'The Queen investing the Sultan with the Order of the Garter,' 1868, painted from a sketch by Princess Louise. All these were exhibited at the Royal Academy in the years named. Of his other exhibits, which were either military or domestic subjects, 'Rotten Row' (1862) was the most remarkable. His paintings were bright and animated and gained him considerable popularity, but had none of the higher qualities of art. Thomas resided at Kingston and Surbiton till illness caused his removal to Boulogne, where he died on 21 July 1868. A collection of his works was exhibited in Bond Street in June 1869, and his sketches and studies were sold at Christie's in July 1872.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Athenaeum, 1 Aug. 1868; Art Journal, 1868, p. 181 (biography), 1869 (criticism).]

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