Item 25 - French, Rev. Dr William

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French, Rev. Dr William


  • 1847 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

Oil on canvas

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Name of creator

(25 September 1820 - 7 February 1888)

Biographical history

Frederick Pickersgill was born in London on 25 September 1820, the son of Richard Pickersgill, a naval officer and amateur marine and landscape painter, and his wife, Anne Witherington, the sister of the painter William Frederick Witherington (1785–1865). His paternal uncle was the portrait painter Henry William Pickersgill (1782–1875), and his cousin Henry Hall Pickersgill (1812–1861) was also a painter.

Pickersgill received his first instruction as an artist from his uncle W. F. Witherington. He entered the Royal Academy Schools on 21 April 1840, having already exhibited a watercolour, The Brazen Age, at the Royal Academy in 1839. In 1843 he won a prize of £100 for his cartoon The Death of King Lear in the competition to decorate the new houses of parliament. In 1847 he won a first-class prize of £500 for The Burial of Harold, and the work was purchased for the houses of parliament for an equal amount. Pickersgill was elected an associate of the Royal Academy on 1 November 1847.

On 5 August 1847 Pickersgill married Mary Noorouz Elizabeth (1825–1886). Mary was the sister of the landscape and history painter J. C. Hook (1819–1907). The couple had one son.

Pickersgill exhibited fifty works at the Royal Academy between 1839 and 1875, of which the majority were subjects taken from literature, especially authors such as Spenser and Milton, religious subjects, and scenes from ancient history and the Italian Renaissance period.

Pickersgill seems to have experimented with photography. He also drew illustrations to various publications.

On 14 June 1857 Pickersgill was elected a full Royal Academician.

Pickersgill was commissioned in 1871, for a fee of £1000, to design a lunette fresco for the Victoria and Albert Museum on the subject The Industrial Arts in Time of Peace. He executed a full-size oil (V&A), but the fresco was never executed as a design by Frederick Leighton was later preferred. Pickersgill was elected keeper of the Royal Academy Schools on 10 July 1873 and served in this post until 3 August 1887.

Pickersgill's wife died on 21 June 1886, and on 7 February 1888 he retired from the Royal Academy. He spent the remainder of his life at The Towers, Yarmouth, on the Isle of Wight, where he died on 20 December 1900.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Bought by the College from the artist for £52 10s

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Portrait of Revd Dr William French (Master of Jesus College, 1820-1849) by Frederick Pickersgill.

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762 x 635mm

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