Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 53.djvu/483

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


at Bowood, and (1834) a similar number for the Duke of Sutherland at Trentham Hall. Venice and its neighbourhood, and the Italian lakes, with an occasional view on the Medway and the coast of France, employed his pencil till 1837, when he exhibited ‘On the Scheld, near Leiskenshoeck—Squally Day,’ and the works of the following years show an extension of his travels to Avignon, Ancona, Amalfi, and Naples. From 1844 to 1848 the subjects of his exhibited pictures were principally Dutch, and included ‘The Day after the Wreck; A Dutch East Indiaman on Shore on the Ooster Schelde; Zierikree in the distance’ (1844); and ‘Dutch Boats running into Saardam—Amsterdam in the distance’ (1845); but he also exhibited some Italian scenes like ‘Il Ponte Rotto, Rome’ (1846), and ‘Naples’ (1847), besides a battle-piece, ‘The Capture of El Gamo by H. M. sloop Speedy (Lord Cochrane)’ (1845), and ‘French Troops (1796) fording the Margra’ (1847), painted for the Earl of Ellesmere.

In 1840 he was recommended country air for his health, and rented a cottage at Northaw in Hertfordshire, near the residence of his friend, Joseph Marryat (the brother of Captain Marryat, the novelist), and in 1846 he took a lodging at Hampstead. In 1847 he determined to take up permanent residence at Hampstead, and left 48 Mornington Place for The Green-hill, now the Hampstead Public Library. Here were painted some of his finest pictures, including ‘Tilbury Fort—Wind against Tide’ (1849), painted for Robert Stephenson, M.P.; ‘The Battle of Roveredo’ (1851), painted for J. D. Astley; ‘The Victory (with the body of Nelson on board) towed into Gibraltar after the Battle of Trafalgar’ (1853), painted for Sir Samuel Morton Peto; ‘The Pic du Midi’ (1854); and ‘The Abandoned,’ a large dismasted derelict, rolling in a heavy sea. It was painted for Thomas Baring, and is the most poetical of all his works, and also the most original, as at that time a picture without any figure or suggestion of human life was almost unknown. It was sent with two others to the Paris Exhibition of 1855, when Stanfield was awarded a gold medal of the first class, and was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1856.

It was at Hampstead that many of Stanfield's happiest years were passed. Many of the meetings of the ‘Sketching Society’ were held here, and a large circle of literary and artistic friends, including Charles Dickens, Thackeray, Macready, John Forster, Sir Edwin Landseer, David Roberts, Samuel Lover, C. R. Leslie, and the two Chalons were frequent visitors at The Green-hill. In 1851 he made a somewhat lengthened tour with his wife and daughters in the south of France and the north of Spain, and made numerous sketches, from which many of his later pictures were produced.

In 1858 Stanfield went with his old friend David Roberts to Scotland, to receive his diploma as honorary member of the Scottish Academy, and in 1862 he was made chevalier of the Belgian order of Leopold. During the last ten years of his life his health, which had been much improved by his residence at Hampstead, began to fail again. He was obliged to withdraw in some measure from the society of his friends, and in 1864 he sustained a very severe blow by the death of David Roberts. Nevertheless his interest in his art never tired, and he continued to exhibit till his death on 18 March 1867, when his last picture, ‘A Skirmish off Heligoland,’ was hanging on the walls of the academy. He died at 6 Belsize Park Road, Hampstead, whither he had been compelled to remove from The Green-hill on account of some projected building operations. He was buried in the Roman catholic cemetery at Kensal Green, where a marble cross is erected to his memory. He was twice married (first, to Mary Hutchinson, and, secondly, to Rebecca Adcock), and had nine sons and three daughters, of whom four sons and two daughters survive. One of his sons, George Clarkson (see below), followed the art of his father with some success.

Stanfield attained a great reputation as a marine-painter, and was called the English Vandevelde. Professor Ruskin regarded him as ‘the leader of the English realists,’ and averred that he was ‘incomparably the noblest master of cloud-form of all our artists.’ He was a manly, sincere, and accomplished painter, with a keen sense of the picturesque and knowledge of sea, and sky, but he looked at nature with the eyes of a scene-painter, having too special regard to its spectacular qualities, so that few of his works, except ‘The Abandoned,’ are imbued with much poetical feeling. For these, and perhaps for other reasons, as a certain monotony in treatment and colour, the exhibition of a number of his pictures at the first winter exhibition of deceased masters at the Royal Academy (1870) did not advance his reputation, and it has never since risen to the level it attained in his lifetime. His friend Charles Dickens, in a charming memorial notice published by him in ‘All the Year Round’ (1 June 1867), calls him ‘the soul of frankness, generosity, and simplicity, the most loving and most lovable of men.’

In the National Gallery of British Art