Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Poole, Paul Falconer

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POOLE, PAUL FALCONER (1807–1879), historical painter, fourth son of James Paul Poole, a small grocer, was born at 43 College Street, Bristol, on 28 Dec. 1807. An elder brother, James Poole, a merchant, was mayor of Bristol in 1858–9, and chairman of the Taff Vale Railway Company, and of the Bristol Docks Committee. He died on 24 Dec. 1872, aged 75.

Paul was baptised in St. Augustine's Church in that city on 22 July 1810 by the names of Paul ‘Fawkner.’ He received little general education, and as an artist was almost entirely self-taught, to which cause must be ascribed the imperfect drawing that is observable in much of his work. He came to London early, and in 1830 exhibited at the Royal Academy his first picture, ‘The Well, a scene at Naples,’ but during the next seven years his name does not appear in the catalogues. He, however, contributed to the exhibitions of the Society of British Artists and of the British Institution, and from 1833 to 1835 appears to have been living at Southampton. In 1837 he sent to the Royal Academy ‘Farewell! Farewell!’ and was afterwards an almost constant contributor to its exhibitions. ‘The Emigrant's Departure’ appeared at the Royal Academy in 1838, and was followed in 1840 by ‘The Recruit’ and ‘Hermann and Dorothea at the Fountain,’ in 1841 by ‘By the Rivers of Babylon,’ a work of fine poetic feeling, and in 1842 by ‘Tired Pilgrims’ and ‘Margaret alone at the Spinning-Wheel.’ All these works were idyllic, but in 1843 he attracted much notice by his highly dramatic picture of ‘Solomon Eagle exhorting the people to Repentance during the Plague of the year 1665,’ a subject taken from Defoe's ‘History of the Plague,’ and described by Redgrave as representing ‘the wild enthusiast, almost stark naked, calling down judgment upon the stricken city, the pan of burning charcoal upon his head throwing a lurid light around.’ The Heywood gold medal of the Royal Manchester Institution was awarded to him for this picture in 1845. He also, in 1843, sent to the Westminster Hall competition a spirited cartoon, the subject of which was ‘The Death of King Lear.’ In 1844 he sent to the academy ‘The Moors beleaguered by the Spaniards in the city of Valencia,’ and in 1846 ‘The Visitation and Surrender of Syon Nunnery.’ He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1846, and in 1847 gained a prize of 300l. in the Westminster Hall competition for his cartoon of ‘Edward's Generosity to the People of Calais during the Siege of 1346.’ His subsequent contributions to the Royal Academy included, in 1848, ‘Robert, Duke of Normandy, and Arletta;’ in 1849, a picture in three compartments, containing scenes from Shakespeare's ‘Tempest;’ in 1850, ‘The Messenger announcing to Job the Irruption of the Sabæans and the Slaughter of the Servants,’ a work which has been described as ‘a painted poem not unlike Mr. Browning's verse;’ and in 1851 ‘The Goths in Italy,’ now in the Manchester Art Gallery. These were followed by ‘The May Queen preparing for the Dance’ and ‘Marina singing to her father Pericles,’ in 1852; ‘The Song of the Troubadour,’ in 1854; ‘The Seventh Day of the Decameron: Philomena's Song,’ in 1855; ‘The Conspirators—the Midnight Meeting,’ in 1856; ‘A Field Conventicle,’ in 1857; ‘The Last Scene in King Lear (The Death of Cordelia),’ in 1858, now in the South Kensington Museum; and ‘The Escape of Glaucus and Ione, with the blind girl Nydia, from Pompeii,’ in 1860. In 1861 Poole was elected a royal academician, and presented as his diploma work ‘Remorse.’ His later works include the ‘Trial of a Sorceress—the Ordeal by Water,’ 1862; ‘Lighting the Beacon on the coast of Cornwall at the appearance of the Spanish Armada,’ 1864; ‘Before the Cave of Belarius,’ 1866; ‘The Spectre Huntsman,’ 1870; ‘Guiderius and Arviragus lamenting the supposed death of Imogen,’ 1871; ‘The Lion in the Path,’ 1873; ‘Ezekiel's Vision,’ 1875, bequeathed by him to the National Gallery, but not a good example of his powers; ‘The Meeting of Oberon and Titania,’ 1876; ‘The Dragon's Cavern,’ 1877; ‘Solitude,’ 1878; and ‘May Day’ and ‘Imogen before the Cave of Belarius,’ 1879. These were his last exhibited works, and were typical examples of his idyllic and dramatic styles. His pictures owe much of their effect to his fine feeling for colour, the keynote of which was a tawny gold. He was elected a member of the Institute of Painters in Water-Colours in 1878. Two of his drawings are in the South Kensington Museum. Twenty-six of his works were exhibited at the winter exhibition of the Royal Academy in 1884, together with a portrait-sketch by Frank Holl, R.A.

Poole, who was a painter of great poetic imagination and dramatic power, died at his residence, Uplands, Hampstead, on 22 Sept. 1879, and was buried in Highgate cemetery. In manner unassuming, he was, in person, tall and spare, with grey eyes and a short beard. He married Hannah, widow of Francis Danby [q. v.], A.R.A., who also in early life resided in Bristol, and whose son, Thomas Danby, lived much with him.

[Athenæum, 1879, ii. 408; Art Journal, 1879, pp. 263, 278; Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th edit. 1875–89, xix. 461; Redgraves' Century of Painters of the English School, 1890, p. 367; Royal Academy Exhibition Catalogues, 1830–1879; British Institution Exhibition Catalogues (Living Artists), 1830–42; Exhibition Catalogues of the Society of British Artists, 1830–41; Graves's Dictionary of Artists, 1760–1880; information kindly communicated by Mr. H. B. Bowles of Clifton, and Mr. W. George of Bristol, and by Dr. Richard Garnett, C.B.]

R. E. G.