Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Vincent, George

VINCENT, GEORGE (1796–1836?), landscape-painter, born in the parish of St. John Timberhill, Norwich, and baptised on 27 June 1796, was the second surviving son of James Vincent, a weaver, afterwards a manufacturer, residing in St. Clement's Church Alley, Norwich, by his first wife, Mary Freeman, who died about 1800. He was educated at the Norwich grammar school. As a child he was fond of drawing with charcoal, and on leaving school he was articled to John Crome [q. v.] His fellow-pupils were James Stark [q. v.] and John Bernay Crome [q. v.], but Vincent was the most talented of the group. He contributed to the exhibitions of the Norwich Society of Artists every year from 1811 till 1823, sending more than a hundred works in all. In 1814 he exhibited a view near Norwich at the Royal Academy, and another in 1815 at the British Institution; but he was not a regular contributor to the London exhibitions till 1818, when he took up his residence in London, first in Wells Street, then at 86 Newman Street, where he remained till 1821. At first he received a fair amount of patronage, and painted some pictures of importance. He exhibited only nine works at the Royal Academy, forty-one at the British Institution (yearly from 1815 to 1831, except 1816 and 1828), and twelve in Suffolk Street. His pictures were chiefly views of Norfolk villages, meadows, and woods, varied occasionally by Scottish scenes (‘Edinburgh from Calton Hill,’ 1820; ‘Loch Katrine,’ 1822) and pictures of boats. In 1820 he exhibited ‘London from the Surrey Side of Waterloo Bridge’ at the ‘Old Watercolour’ Society's gallery, which was open on this occasion to non-members. This picture was afterwards in Lord De Tabley's collection, and was engraved in the ‘Leicester Gallery.’ In the same year he exhibited a ‘View of Greenwich from Blackwall’ at the British Institution.

In 1822 he was living at Kentish Town. After that year his name appears in exhibition catalogues with no address. His health suffered from his intemperate habits, and he was generally in pecuniary difficulties. In the summer and autumn of 1824 he was living at 28 Upper Thornhaugh Street, Bedford Square (manuscript letters of Vincent to William Davey of Thorp, Norwich, in the collection of Mr. James Reeve). At this time he was preparing pictures of the battles of the Nile and of Trafalgar to compete for a prize offered by the directors of the British Gallery, but imprisonment in the Fleet for debt prevented him completing them. He was assisted by his father-in-law and other friends, and continued to paint small pictures during his confinement. In 1825 he visited Stark at Norwich, accompanied by a keeper, and in that year he resumed his connection with the Norwich Society, sending five works to the exhibition. He obtained his liberty on 13 Feb. 1827. In 1828 he sent six pictures to the Norwich exhibition, and in 1831 exhibited his last picture there. In April 1833 his father died, after heavy losses in business, and left about 800l. to each of his children. He went to Norwich on this occasion, but was never heard of again by his relatives. It is supposed that he died, perhaps by his own hand, in or before 1836. He married a daughter of Dr. Cugnoni; she subsequently married a journalist named Murphy.

A portrait of Vincent by the Norwich artist Joseph Clover passed to the Norwich Castle Museum in 1899 under the will of J. J. Colman, along with ‘Trowse Meadows,’ a fine landscape by Vincent. Colman also owned one of Vincent's best pictures, ‘On the Yare.’ His masterpiece, ‘Greenwich Hospital,’ belongs to Mr. William Orme Foster of Apley Park, Bridgnorth. Its appearance at the International Exhibition of 1862 caused a revival of interest in Vincent, whose name was almost forgotten. It aroused still greater enthusiasm in 1877 at the winter exhibition at Burlington House, where it hung between a Wilson and a Turner, and held its own. This approval led to the exhibition of several other pictures by Vincent in 1878 and succeeding years, and the relatively large prices which some of them have fetched at recent sales testify to the high place which is now assigned to Vincent among the painters of the Norwich school.

Vincent produced a number of skilful etchings from his own pictures or sketches. Few impressions were taken, and they are now scarce. The British Museum collection contains nineteen, many of which are in several different states. A few are etched in outline and completed in mezzotint in the style of Turner's ‘Liber Studiorum.’ The dates on the etchings range from 1821 to 1827, but Vincent is said to have practised etching before he left Norwich.

[Redgraves' Century of Painters, ii. 374; Graves's Dict. of Artists; Eastern Daily Press, 20 Jan. 1885; Catalogue of Pictures in the Norwich Castle Museum; information from James Reeve, esq., derived in part from Mrs. James Vincent, sister-in-law of the painter.]

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