Charles Edward Perugini

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Charles Edward Perugini

English Victorian Neoclassical painter

Born 9/1/1839 - Died 12/23/1918

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I have found it rather difficult to discover much about Perugini, and, as a result, my initial short biography of him was woefully inadequate. Perugini was a most interesting artist. His paintings were fastidiously painted, highly finished, with subtle integrated colouring, and at their best quite simply wonderful aesthetic pictures. Despite the Italian name, and his birth in Naples, the artist spent the great part of his life in England. His wife, Kate, was the widow of Charles Allston Collins, and the daughter of Charles Dickens. She was the model for the young woman in Millais’s famous painting The Black Brunswicker, and also sat for a rather unconventional portrait by him. Perugini was a protégé of Lord Leighton and very much part of his circle. He did not become even an ARA, and given the standard of his pictures, and his closeness to Leighton and Millais, I find this quite surprising.

This obituary of Charles Edward Perugini appeared in The Times on Monday 23rd December 1918. It does, at least, give some more information about him.

DEATH OF MR PERUGINI - The Leighton-Millais Group

The death of Mr Charles Edward Perugini which occurred in London yesterday, removes the last of the inner circle of intimates which included Leighton and Millais and formerly Fred Walker among the art-representatives of the recent past. He was born in Naples on September 1st 1839, during a short visit to that city by his Italian parents, who had for many years previously been resident in England, and he was still an infant when he was brought to this country, where in due course he became naturalized. Eleven years later Horace Vernet on seeing the boy’s drawings, recommended that he should study in Italy. He was successively the pupil of [Guiseppe] Bonolis and [Guiseppe] Mancinelli under whose severe training he became proficient in all the allied arts and architecture.

While still a youth he entered the studio in Paris of Ary Scheffer [in 1854]. At that time one of the greatest artistic figures in France and a friend of Louis-Phillipe. Curiously enough he was in Scheffer’s studio when Charles Dickens was sitting for his portrait accompanied by his young daughter Kate, whom the young artist did not see, but who was destined to become his wife a few years later. He soon attracted attention in the Royal Academy, where his engaging art brought him many admirers; among his best known pictures still familiar enough through the engravings made of them are Dolce far Niente, A Siesta, Cup of Tea, Fresh Lavendar, La Superbe, Flower Worship, and The World Forgetting.

Mr Perugini was also an occasional portrait painter; his likeness of John Forster, Charles Dickens’s biographer was re-exhibited not long since on the walls of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Although an Englishman in thought and character, Perugini showed himself in his art an inheritor of the tradition of Raphael, or rather of Carlo Dolci. Elegance, purity, and correctness of draughtsmanship, perfect refinement and dignity, grace and charm, delicacy in colour, and the tenderness of harmonious line - these are the qualities of his academic art which are now, it must be recognised outside, the sweep of the modern movement, but which has delighted two generations of picture-lovers who look for sound scholarship severely disciplined and veiled by melodious sweetness and distinction. His pictures are to be found in a number of public galleries. Perugini’s art reflected his nature. He commanded the respect and esteem of a large circle, and was regarded with particular attention by his friends, who will acutely feel the loss of so worthy and loveable a man.

It may be added that in the early days Mr Perugini received a commission in The Artists Rifle Corps of the Middlesex Royal Volunteers, afterwards the 20th, which he held for a good many years. He was a diligent and highly successful competitor in the chess-problem columns of The Times.

PHR. 31/5/2001.

Source:
  • Our thanks go to Paul Ripley for his kind permission to reprint these articles from his website, Victorian Art in Britain.

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