Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Huggins, William (1820-1884)

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HUGGINS, WILLIAM (1820–1884), animal-painter, was born in Liverpool in 1820. Samuel Huggins [q.v.] was an elder brother. William received his first instruction in drawing at the Mechanics' Institution, afterwards the Liverpool Institute, and now the government school of art, where at the age of fifteen he gained a prize for a design, 'Adam's Vision of the Death of Abel.' He also made many studies from the animals at the Liverpool zoological gardens, and was a student at the life class of the old Liverpool academy, of which he became a full member. One of the best-known of his early works was 'Fight between the Eagle and the Serpent,' to illustrate a passage from Shelley's 'Revolt of Islam.' The reclining figure in the composition is his wife. Disappointed at the reception of his animal pictures, he painted about 1845 several subjects from Milton, 'Una and the Lion' from Spenser's 'Faerie Queene,' 'Enchantress and Nourmahal' from Moore's 'Lalla Rookh,' &c. In 1861 Huggins removed to Chester, and during his residence there painted many views of the cathedral and the city, the `Stones of Chester, or Ruins of St. John's,' `Salmon Trap on the Dee,' &c. He left Chester in 1876 for Bettws-y-Coed, North Wales, with the purpose of studying landscape; one of the results was 'The Fairy Glen,' exhibited at the Liverpool Exhibition, 1877, but he again returned to Chester, and died at Christleton, near that city, 25 Feb. 1884.

Huggins was a constant exhibitor at the Royal Academy from 1846 till within a few years of his death, and at the exhibitions at Liverpool, Manchester, Dublin, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. His horses, cattle, and poultry pictures were his best and most characteristic work, good in drawing, and remarkable for brilliance of colour; 'Tried Friends,' purchased by the Liverpool corporation, well illustrates these qualities. Few artists have been more versatile; he not only drew portraits in chalk of many of his friends, but painted some large equestrian portraits in oil. An excellent example is the portrait of Mr.T. Gorton, master of the Holcombe hunt, with a leash of hounds. He was an accomplished musician, and had an exceptional knowledge of other branches of art, such as ceramics and glass. Among his portraits is one of himself (1841), and another of his elder brother, Samuel Huggins.

[Liverpool Mercury, 28 Feb. 1884; exhibition catalogues; private information.]

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