Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Vernon, Robert

VERNON, ROBERT (1774–1849), patron of art, born in 1774, was of humble origin, and became, through his own exertions, a jobmaster, posting contractor, and dealer in horses in London in a very large way. He amassed a large fortune as contractor for the supply of horses to the British armies during the wars with Napoleon. He turned his attention to pictures, and between 1820 and 1847 he collected some two hundred works by living English masters, as well as a few by continental painters. All these he is said to have bought without the intervention of dealers, and with little guidance beyond that of his own judgment. On 22 Dec. 1847 he presented a selection of 157 pictures from his collection to the nation. This collection was housed at first in Marlborough House. It was afterwards moved to the South Kensington Museum, and in 1876 to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. It is now divided between that building and the National Gallery of British Art at the Tate Gallery, Millbank.

Vernon was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He died at his house in Pall Mall on 22 May 1849, and was buried at Ardington, Berkshire, where he owned property. His portrait, by H. W. Pickersgill, R.A., and a bust in marble, by W. Behnes (the latter given by Queen Victoria, the prince consort, and a committee of subscribers), are in the National Gallery.

[Vernon Heath's Recollections, 1892; Gent. Mag. 1849 pt. ii. 98; Art Journal, 1849; National Gallery Catalogue.]

W. A.