Havell, William (DNB00)

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HAVELL, WILLIAM (1782–1857), landscape-painter, was the son of a drawing master at Reading, who kept a small shop to eke out his narrow means. William, born on 9 Feb. 1782, was one of fourteen children. In early life he spent some time sketching in Wales, but it was somewhat against his father's will that he adopted art as a profession. In 1804 he sent his first contribution to the Royal Academy - a view of Carnarvon Castle and another of of the valley of Nant Ffrancon in the name county. In the same year he became one of the founding members of the (now Royal) Society of Painters in Water-colours. In 1807 he was in Westmoreland, where he stayed about two years, studying mountain scenery. In 1813 he seceded from the Water-colour Society, but under a then existing rule continued to contribute to their exhibitions, as well as to the Royal Academy, where he exhibited in 1812 and 1814. In 1816 he was engaged in a work called 'Picturesque Views ond Characteristic Scenery of British Villas', when he went with Lord Amherst's embassy to China. In consequence of a quarrel the engagement was soon broken off, and he retired to India in 1817, where he stayed till 1825, pursuing his profession with profit. On his return he rejoined the Watercolour Society, but he found that his place in public favour was filled by younger men, and after a while be ceased to contribute to their exhibitions and took to painting in oils. He visited Florence, Rome, and Naples in 1827, and became a constant contributor to the Royal Academy, his subjects being chiefly Italian, but sometimes from Wales, Westmoreland, and China. He also exhibited at the British Institution and Suffolk Street. Although his works were of great merit and distinguished by pure and delicate colour, they failed to attract the public, and having lost his savings by the failure of an Indian bank, he became a pensioner on the Turner Fund. He died, after some years of declining health, at Kensington on 16 Dec. 1857. Havell was one of the best of the earlier painters in water-colour, and did much to advance this art, and his pictures in oil, though neglected during his lifetime, have recently risen greatly in estimation. There is a drawing of Windsor by him in the South Kensington Museum, besides a few good examples of his earlier drawings in Wales and Westmoreland.

Three of Havell's brothers obtained a certain success in the profession of art. George Havell (d. 1839?) was an animal painter, and attempted engraving and sculpture. Edmund Havell was an occasional exhibitor at the Rotal Academy, and he succeeded his father as drawing-master at Reading: his son, Edmund Havell the younger (b. 1819), is a well-known artist. Frederick James Havell (1801-1840), the third brother, practised line engraving and mezzotint, and made experiments in photography.

[Redgrave's Dict, of Artists; Grave's Dict.; Annals of the Fine Arts; Monkhouse's Earlier English Water-colour Painters.]

C. M.