Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Morris, Philip Richard

MORRIS, PHILIP RICHARD (1836–1902), painter, born at Devonport, Devonshire, on 4 Dec. 1836, was the youngest of the five children of John Simmons Morris, an iron founder, by his wife Anne Saunders. He was taken to London at the age of fourteen, with a view to being trained for his father's profession. But his mind was set upon an artist's career, and, largely owing to Holman Hunt's advice, Ms father overcame a rooted objection to his pursuit of art. Philip was soon allowed to work at the British Museum, where he applied himself particularly to drawing from the Elgin marbles. Having entered the Royal Academy Schools, Morris made striking progress, gaining three silver medals for drawing, painting, and portrait. In 1858 he won the gold medal and a travelling studentship which enabled him to visit Italy. He exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time in the same year, and, save for five years, was represented there annually till 1901. He exhibited at the British Institution from 1857 to 1865. The beginning of his professional career was briUiantly successful and raised hopes in his brother artists and in the public that were destined to be disappointed by the achievement of his maturity. After Morris's election as A.R.A. in 1877 his powers began to wane, and in 1900 he retired voluntarily from the associateship. He died in London on 22 April 1902, and was buried at Kensal Green. He was married to a widow, Mrs, Sargeantson, daughter of J. Evans of Llangollen, and had two sons and three daughters.

For his earliest work Phil Morris chose his subjects from the drama of the sea and the sailor's life. It was his instinct for dramatic effectiveness and sentiment that made his art popular, both on the walls of exhibitions and in the form of engraved plates, and atoned to a certain extent for his shortcomings as a colourist. His landscape backgrounds were almost invariably the feeblest part of his pictures. Among his early sea pictures were : 'Voices from the Sea' (R.A. 1860); 'Driftwreck from the Armada' (1867); and 'Cradled in his Calling' (B.I. 1864). Then came a period during which he was almost exclusively attracted by religious subjects, such as 'The Shadow of the Cross' (acquired by the Baroness Burdett-Coutts and never exhibited); 'Where they Crucified Him' (B.I. 1864); 'Jesus Salvator' (1865); 'The Summit of Calvary' (1871); 'The Shepherd of Jerusalem.' None of his pictures, however, attained to more popularity than 'Sons of the Brave ' (1880), depicting the orphan boys of soldiers. Royal Military Asylum, Chelsea. Among other well-known works by him are 'The Knightly Mirror,' 'Good-bye, God Bless You' (1873), 'The Mowers' (1875), 'The Sailor's Wedding' (1876), 'The First Communion,' and 'The Reaper and the Flowers.'

[Mag. of Art, 1902; Victoria Mag., 1880; Graves's Royal Acad. Exhibitors; British Institution Exhibitors; private information.]

P. G. K.