Sir Edwin Henry Landseer

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Sir Edwin Henry Landseer

14 artworks

English Romantic painter, sculptor, etcher and animalier

Born 1802 - Died 1873

  • Artworks
  • Biography
  • Relationships
  • Letters
  • Images of the Artist

The Faithful Hound

circa 1830

Oil on canvas

66 x 88.9 cms | 25 3/4 x 35 ins

Private collection, ,

HD

Study of a Dead Heron

Oil on Panel

39 x 53.5 cms | 15 1/4 x 21 ins

Private collection, ,

HD

Lion Drinking At A Stream

Oil on canvas

29 x 48 cms | 11 1/4 x 18 3/4 ins

Private collection, ,

HD

Stag and Hound

Oil on board

43.5 x 53.3 cms | 17 x 20 3/4 ins

Private collection, ,

HD

Study Of A Dead Stag

Oil on cardboard

28.5 x 40 cms | 11 x 15 1/2 ins

Private collection, ,

HD

The Highland Nurses

Oil on canvas

70 x 89 cms | 27 1/2 x 35 ins

Private collection, ,

HD

Wolf and Fox Hunt

Oil on canvas

40.6 x 61 cms | 15 3/4 x 24 ins

Private collection, ,

HD

Dignity and Impudence

1839

Oil on canvas

88.9 x 69.2 cms | 35 x 27 ins

Private collection, ,

HD

Isaac van Amburgh and his Animals

1839

Oil on canvas

113 x 175 cms | 44 1/4 x 68 3/4 ins

Royal Collection, Windsor Castle, London, United Kingdom

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Mode

In the first part of the reign of Queen Victoria, Landseer, like Mendelssohn in music, achieved a pre-eminence it is difficult for us to understand today. I still find it difficult to reach any firm conclusions about him.

Edwin Landseer was the youngest son of a family of seven children. The family as well as being large was united, and young Edwin was thoroughly indulged by his older siblings. His father, John Landseer was an engraver, and he thoroughly encouraged the artistic efforts of his precocious son, whose first drawings were of animals. Edwin Landseer studied under B R Haydon. He also had lessons in anatomy, and being given the carcass of a dead lion from a menagerie, he thoroughly studied the dead animal, and dissected it. Like Stubbs before him he was a serious student of animal anatomy.

Landseer exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1817, and was elected ARA in 1826, at the age of twenty three. Landseer's interest in painting pictures of animals gave him an entre to aristocratic society, and in 1824 he stayed with the Duke of Atholl. For the rest of his life he was a 'groupie,' of the great Whig aristocratic families, including that of the Duke of Bedford, whose second wife Georgiana was probably his mistress. Landseer became a full RA in 1831.

The 1830s were a very successful decade for him. In 1837, the year of her accession, he met Queen Victoria for the first time, producing a drawing of her favourite King Charles Spaniel Dash. From then on his position at court was secure; he was the favourite living artist of the Queen and the Prince Consort. The career of Landseer seemed like a fairy story to this point. An ordinary, but loyal family supplying the emotional power base, his hard work and ability rewarded by lavish aristocratic patrons, who accepted him socially, and his place as a friend of Queen Victoria.

In 1840, the first cracks appeared in this previously immaculate façade. In the early part of 1840 Landseer's mother died. Later in the year he had a severe mental breakdown, from which he never entirely recovered. He had to rest for some time, and then took a fairly prolonged trip to Europe. During this holiday Landseer made many excellent drawings of local people and animals, as his state of mental health improved. He eventually returned to his home in London. It is worth mentioning at this point, that he was looked after during his sojourn in Europe by his devoted friend Jacob Bell, a noted research chemist and artist. His inability to manage the day to day tasks of life seemed to bring out the paternal side of Bell, who also managed his business affairs. Landseer was looked after domestically by Barbara Potts, his Aunt, and his devoted sister, companion, and mother-substitute, Jessica. At this time he became dependant on drugs, to manage his mental state. I suspect that these drugs would be regarded as narcotics today. His intake of alcohol also dramatically increased.

In 1850 Landseer was knighted. It is worthy of mention at this point that Landseer's psychological problems never totally prevented him working. In truth he was a creative artist with a creative artist's sensitivity. He produced some disturbing, violent images, which were a reflection of his mental condition. Landseer was probably more disturbed than anybody else by the images he created-he alone had to live with them all the time. There seems to have been a duality in his outlook he found difficult to resolve. The lover of wild places, and even more so the nobility of the wild creatures that lived in them, also gloried in their brutal destruction. During the earlier part of this short biography I described Landseer as an aristocratic groupie, but this is rather unfair. Yes he did entertain his aristocratic and Royal patrons by his gift as a raconteur, but he was never subservient to them. He was also capable of inspiring real affection and respect in the art world, declining the Presidency of the Royal Academy in 1866. His close friendship with Charles Lock Eastlake PRA, his friendships with J F Lewis, and the younger Millais, who seems to have hero-worshipped him are all evidence of his ability to get close to people, and earn the respect of his peers. He also was a lover of female company, and feminine charm. For most of his life the painter spent Autumn in the Highlands of Scotland, a major source of inspiration.

Landeer,s mental and physical condition deteriorated in the 1860s. He was confined due to his mental instability on a number of occasions. He was still creative, and intermittently produced some powerful works. The largest commission in the later life of the artist, were the Lions for Trafalgar Square. The struggle of Landseer to produce these vast sculptures, brings to mind G F Watts statue of Tennyson twenty five years later. The Lions were finally installed on their plinths in Trafalgar Square in January 1867. A heroic labour by the ageing and unstable artist.

In 1872 Landseer was certified insane. He died on October 1st 1873, leaving more than £200,000.

Source: Victorian Art in Britain.