Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pinwell, George John
PINWELL, GEORGE JOHN (1842–1875), water-colour painter, was born in London on 26 Dec. 1842. His early life appears to have been a struggle against difficulties, and his first instruction in drawing to have been obtained in some local school of art until 1862, when he entered Heatherley's drawing academy in Newman Street. In 1863 he began his professional career by designing and drawing on wood, chiefly for the brothers Dalziel, whom he assisted in the production of their edition of the ‘Arabian Nights' Entertainments,’ and for whom he made the designs for Goldsmith's ‘Vicar of Wakefield,’ published in 1864. He was employed also on illustrations for the ‘Sunday Magazine,’ ‘Good Words,’ ‘Once a Week,’ ‘London Society,’ and other periodicals; and, together with Frederick Walker, John W. North, and others, he illustrated ‘A Round of Days’ (1866), Robert Buchanan's ‘Ballad Stories of the Affections’ (1866) and ‘Wayside Posies’ (1867), Jean Ingelow's ‘Poems’ (1867), and other works, in all of which he was very successful. On the opening of the Dudley Gallery in 1865, he exhibited his first water-colour painting, ‘An Incident in the Life of Oliver Goldsmith,’ which was followed, in 1866–9, by five other drawings. In 1869 he was elected an associate of the Society of Painters in Water-colours, of which he became a full member in 1870. He contributed regularly to the society's exhibitions, his more important works being two subjects from Browning's poem of ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’ and ‘A Seat in St. James's Park,’ in 1869; ‘The Elixir of Love,’ ‘At the Foot of the Quantocks,’ and ‘Landlord and Tenant’ in 1870; ‘Away from Town’ (a study of girls and turkeys), ‘Time and his Wife’ and ‘The Earl o' Quarterdeck’ in 1871; ‘Gilbert à Becket's Troth—the Saracen Maiden entering London at Sundown,’ in 1872; ‘The Great Lady’ in 1873; ‘The Beggar's Roost,’ ‘The Prison Hole,’ and ‘The Auctioneer’ (three scenes in Tangier) in 1874; and ‘The Old Clock’ and ‘We fell out, my Wife and I,’ in 1875. He was also elected an honorary member of the Belgian Society of Painters in Water-colours.
Pinwell seems to have formed his style on that of Frederick Walker. His compositions were original, and were painted with much delicacy; while, his designs possessed great power. But there was not always the same quality in his colouring, and his work suffered from a peculiar mode of dealing with the effects of light and shade. He studied painting in oil, but left only some unfinished works, with one of which—‘Vanity Fair’—he hoped to have made his mark. Ill-health caused great inequalities in his later work, and a visit to Tangier failed to prolong a life of much hope and promise. He died of consumption at his residence, Warwick House, Adelaide Road, Haverstock Hill, London, on 8 Sept. 1875, and was buried in Highgate cemetery. An exhibition of his works was held in Deschamps's Gallery in New Bond Street in February 1876, and his remaining drawings and sketches were sold by auction by Messrs. Christie, Manson, & Woods, on 16 March 1876. His ‘Strolling Players’ was engraved in line by Charles Cousen for the ‘Art Journal’ of 1873, and ‘The Elixir of Love’ was etched by Robert W. Macbeth, A.R.A., in 1885. There are etchings also by W. H. Boucher of Pinwell's ‘Princess and the Ploughboy’ and ‘Strollers.’
[Roget's History of the Old Water-colour Society, 1891, ii. 396–9; Exhibition Catalogues of the Society of Painters in Water-Colours, 1869–75; Art Journal, 1875, p. 365; Athenæum, 1875, ii. 349, 380; Pall Mall Gazette, 9 Sept. 1875; Illustrated London News (with portrait), 18 Sept. 1875; Birmingham Weekly Post, 30 March 1895.]