Prior, Melton (DNB12)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

PRIOR, MELTON (1845–1910), war artist, born in London on 12 Sept. 1845, was son of William Henry Prior (1812–1882), a draughtsman and landscape painter, by his wife Amelia. Educated at St. Clement Danes grammar school, London, where he attended art classes, and at Blériot College, Boulogne, he helped his father, and thus first developed his own artistic powers. He began working for the 'Illustrated London News' in 1868, and after spending five years in sketching for the paper in England, he first acted as war correspondent in 1873, when the proprietor. Sir William Ingram, sent him to Ashanti with Sir Garnet (afterwards Lord) Wolseley's expedition. Thenceforth for thirty years he was similarly engaged for the 'Illustrated London News' with little intermission. In 1874 he proceeded to Spain to sketch incidents in the Carlist rising, and in 1876 to the Balkan peninstda, where he campaigned with the Avistrians in Bosnia, followed the fortimes of the Servians in their short war with Bulgaria, and went through the Turco-Russian war. Prior watched the long series of campaigns in South Africa (1877-1881), including the Kaffir, Basuto and Zulu wars, and the Boer campaign which culminated at Majuba Hill (27 Feb. 1881). On 14 Sept. 1882 he was present with the English army on its entry into Cairo, was with Baker Pasha's army at El Teb (29 Feb. 1884), accompanied Lord Wolseley's relief expedition up the Nile (1884–5),' and was with Sir Gerald Graham [q. v. Suppl. I] in his campaign in the Soudan early in 1885. From the Soudan he passed to Burma, where (Sir) Frederick (afterwards Earl) Roberts was engaged in active warfare (1886-7). The successive revolutions in Brazil, Argentine and Venezuela kept him much in South America between 1889 and 1892. Trouble in the Transvaal recalled him to South Africa in 1896; he went through the Greco-Turkish war, and the north-west frontier war in India next year, and saw the Cretan rising in 1898. When the South African war opened in October 1899 Prior went out with the first batch of correspondents, and was with the British besieged force in Ladysmith (2 Nov. 1899-28 Feb. 1900). In 1903 he was with the Somaliland expedition. His last campaign was the Russo-Japanese war, when he accompanied General Oku's army into the Liao-tung Peninsula (July 1904). Prior's many journeys to illustrate great social ceremonials included a visit to Athens in 1875 in the suite of King Edward VII when Prince of Wales, to Canada with King George V when Prince of Wales in 1901, and to the Delhi Durbar of 1903.

He twice went round the world, and every part of America was familiar to him. During his active career he only spent the whole of one year (1883) at home. Besides his drawings for the 'Illustrated London News' he occasionally made illustrations for the 'Sketch,' a paper under the same control. Prior's art, if not of the highest order, was eminently graphic, and he had a keen eye for a dramatic situation. He worked almost entirely in black and white, with the pen or the pencil, and with extraordinary rapidity. He belonged to the adventurous school of war correspondents, of which Archibald Forbes [q. v. Suppl. I] was the leading spirit. In character he was genial, kind-hearted, and impulsive.

He died without issue on 2 Nov. 1910, at Carlyle Mansions, Chelsea, and was buried at Hither Green cemetery. He was twice married: (1) in 1873, to a daughter (d. 1907) of John Greeves, surgeon; (2) in 1908 to Georgina Catherine, daughter of George Macintosh Douglas. A portrait of Prior, painted by Frederick Whiting, is at the Savage Club. A tablet to his memory in the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral was unveiled by Sir Evelyn Wood on 22 Oct. 1912.

[Prior's Campaigns of a War Correspondent, ed. S. L. Bensusan, 1912; Mag. of Art, 1902; Art Journal, 1910; The Times, 3 Nov. 1910; private information.]

F. W. G-n.