Sir Edwin Henry Landseer RA (7 March 1802 – 1 October 1873) was an
English painter and sculptor, well known for his paintings of
animals — particularly horses, dogs, and stags. However, his best
known works are the lion sculptures in Trafalgar Square.
7 See also
10 External links
Landseer was born in London, the son of the engraver John Landseer
A.R.A. He was something of a prodigy whose artistic talents were
recognised early on. He studied under several artists, including his
father, and the history painter Benjamin Robert Haydon, who encouraged
the young Landseer to perform dissections in order to fully understand
animal musculature and skeletal structure. Landseer's life was
entwined with the Royal Academy. At the age of just 13, in 1815, he
exhibited works there. He was elected an Associate at the age of 24,
and an Academician five years later in 1831. He was knighted in 1850,
and although elected President in 1866 he declined the invitation.
In his late 30s Landseer suffered what is now believed to be a
substantial nervous breakdown, and for the rest of his life was
troubled by recurring bouts of melancholy, hypochondria, and
depression, often aggravated by alcohol and drug use. In the last
few years of his life Landseer's mental stability was problematic, and
at the request of his family he was declared insane in July 1872.
Edwin Henry Landseer self-portrait
Landseer was a notable figure in 19th-century British art, and his
works can be found in Tate Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum,
Kenwood House and the
Wallace Collection in London. He also
collaborated with fellow painter Frederick Richard Lee.
Landseer's popularity in Victorian Britain was considerable, and his
reputation as an animal painter was unrivalled. Much of his
fame—and his income—was generated by the publication of engravings
of his work, many of them by his brother Thomas.
Portrait of an Arab Mare with her Foal by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer.
Circa 1825. Commissioned by Princess Charlotte for her
lady-in-waiting, Lady Barbara Ponsonby
Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler (1820)
One of his earliest paintings is credited as the origin of the myth
that St. Bernard rescue dogs in the
Alps carry a small casket of
brandy on their collars. Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed
Traveler (1820) shows two of the dogs standing over a man who is
partially buried in snow. One is barking to attract attention while
the other, who is depicted with the miniature barrel, attempts to
revive the man by licking his hand.
His appeal crossed class boundaries: reproductions of his works were
common in middle-class homes, while he was also popular with the
aristocracy. Queen Victoria commissioned numerous pictures from the
artist. Initially asked to paint various royal pets, he then moved on
to portraits of ghillies and gamekeepers, Then, in the year before her
marriage, the queen commissioned a portrait of herself, as a present
for Prince Albert. He taught both Victoria and Albert to etch,
and made portraits of Victoria's children as babies, usually in the
company of a dog. He also made two portraits of Victoria and Albert
dressed for costume balls, at which he was a guest himself. One of
his last paintings was a life-size equestrian portrait of the Queen,
shown at the
Royal Academy in 1873, made from earlier sketches.
The Monarch of the Glen, 1851: the image was widely distributed in
Landseer was particularly associated with Scotland, which he had first
visited in 1824 and the Highlands in particular, which provided the
subjects (both human and animal) for many of his important
paintings. The paintings included his early successes The Hunting
of Chevy Chase (1825–6), An Illicit Whisky Still in the Highlands
(1826–9) and his more mature achievements, such as the majestic stag
study Monarch of the Glen (1851) and Rent Day in the Wilderness
(1855–68). In 1828, he was commissioned to produce illustrations
for the Waverley Edition of Sir Walter Scott's novels.
The Shrew Tamed
So popular and influential were Landseer's paintings of dogs in the
service of humanity that the name Landseer came to be the official
name for the variety of Newfoundland dog that, rather than being black
or mostly black, features a mix of both black and white. It was this
variety Landseer popularised in his paintings celebrating
Newfoundlands as water rescue dogs, most notably Off to the Rescue
A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society (1838), and Saved
(1856). The paintings combine the Victorian conception of childhood
with the appealing idea of noble animals devoted to humankind, a
devotion indicated, in Saved, by the fact the dog has rescued the
child without any apparent human involvement.
Laying Down The Law
Laying Down The Law (1840) satirises the legal
profession through anthropomorphism. It shows a group of dogs, with a
poodle symbolising the Lord Chancellor.
The Shrew Tamed was entered at the 1861
Royal Academy Exhibition and
caused controversy because of its subject matter. It showed a powerful
horse on its knees among straw in a stable, while a lovely young woman
lies with her head pillowed on its flanks, lightly touching its head
with her hand. The catalogue explained it as a portrait of a noted
equestrienne, Ann Gilbert, applying the taming techniques of the
famous 'horse whisperer' John Solomon Rarey. Critics were troubled
by the depiction of a languorous woman dominating a powerful animal
and some concluded Landseer was implying the famous courtesan
Catherine Walters, then at the height of her fame. Walters was an
excellent horsewoman and along with other "pretty horsebreakers",
frequently appeared riding in Hyde Park.
Some of Landseer's later works, such as his Flood in the Highlands and
Man Proposes, God Disposes
Man Proposes, God Disposes (both of 1864) are pessimistic in tone.
The latter shows two polar bears toying with the bones of the dead and
other remains, from Sir John Franklin's failed arctic expedition.
The painting was purchased at auction by
Thomas Holloway and hangs in
the picture gallery of Royal Holloway, University of London. It is a
college tradition to cover the painting with a union jack, when exams
are held in the gallery, as there is a longstanding rumor that the
painting drives people mad when they sit by it. In 1862 Landseer
painted a portrait of
Louisa Caroline Stewart-Mackenzie
Louisa Caroline Stewart-Mackenzie holding her
One of four Lions around the base of Nelson's Column
Old Shepherd's Chief Mourner (1837; Victoria and Albert Museum,
In 1858 the government commissioned Landseer to make four bronze lions
for the base of
Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, following the
rejection of a set in stone by Thomas Milnes. Landseer accepted on
condition that he would not have to start work for another nine
months, and there was a further delay when he asked to be supplied
with copies of casts of a real lion he knew were in the possession of
the academy at Turin. The request proved complex, and the casts did
not arrive until the summer of 1860. The lions were made at the
Kensington studio of Carlo Marochetti, who also cast them. Work
was slowed by Landseer's ill health, and his fractious relationship
with Marochetti. The sculptures were installed in 1867.
Landseer's death on 1 October 1873 was widely marked in England: shops
and houses lowered their blinds, flags flew at half mast, his bronze
lions at the base of
Nelson's column were hung with wreaths, and large
crowds lined the streets to watch his funeral cortege pass.
Landseer was buried in St Paul's Cathedral, London.
At his death, Landseer left behind three unfinished paintings: Finding
the Otter, Nell Gwynne, and The Dead Buck, all on easels in his
studio. It was his dying wish that his friend John Everett Millais
should complete the paintings, and this he did.
Landseer was rumoured to be able to paint with both hands at the same
time, for example, paint a horse's head with the right and its tail
with the left, simultaneously. He was also known to be able to paint
extremely quickly—when the mood struck him. He could also
procrastinate, sometimes for years, over certain commissions.
Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens
Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens was named after him and was
his godson—Lutyens' father was a friend of Landseer.
Scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream, c. 1850
Lion: A Newfoundland Dog, 1824
Favourites, the Property of H.R.H. Prince George of Cambridge, 1834 to
The Arab Tent, 1866
A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society, exhibited 1838
The Monkey Who Had Seen the World, 1827
A Favorite Greyhound of Prince Albert, 1841
Windsor Castle in Modern Times, Queen Victoria and her family, c. 1842
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at the Bal Costumé of 12 May 1842
The Wild Cattle of Chillingham, 1867
Doubtful Crumbs, 1858
Rachel Russell, 1835
A Highland Landscape, c. 1830
A Highland Breakfast, 1834
Man Proposes, God Disposes, 1864
List of wildlife artists
^ Monkhouse, William Cosmo (1885). "Landseer, Edwin Henry". In
Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 2. London: Smith,
Elder & Co. pp. 64–68.
^ a b c A Victorian Salon: Paintings from the Russell-Cotes Art
Gallery and Museum. Russell-Cotes Art Gallery in association with
Lundl Humphries. 1999. ISBN 0-85331-748-8.
^ Ormond, Monarch 125
^ Stephens (1880), p. 4.
^ Soniak, Matt (18 February 2009). "Why Are St. Bernards Always
Depicted With Barrels Around Their Necks?". Mental Floss. Retrieved 5
^ Manson (1902), p. 102.
^ Manson (1902), p. 104.
^ Manson (1902), p. 105.
^ Manson (1902), p. 106.
^ Manson (1902), p. 107.
^ a b Hamlyn, Robin (1993). Robert Vernon's Gift. London: The Tate
Gallery. p. 31. ISBN 1-85437-116-9.
^ "Rent-day in the Wilderness (1868) - National Galleries
^ Manson (1902), p. 101.
^ The Times, Saturday, May 04, 1861; pg. 12; Issue 23924; col A
^ Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine Vol. 90 (550) Aug 1861 Page 211
^ Manson (1902), p. 161.
^ Sherwood, Dolly, Harriet Hosmer: American
University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1991 p. 266.
^ a b Mace, Rodney (1975). Trafalgar Square:Emblem of Empire. London:
Lawrence & Wishart. pp. 107–8.
^ F. H. W. Sheppard (General Editor) (1983). "The Smith's Charity
Estate: Charles James Freake and Onslow Square Gardens". Survey of
London: volume 41: Brompton. Institute of Historical Research.
Retrieved 11 October 2011.
^ Ormond, Monarch 135
^ JMillais, John Guille (1899). 'Life and Letters of Sir John Everett
Millais. 2. London: Methuen. p. 47.
Manson, James A. (1902). Sir
Edwin Landseer R.A. London: Walter Scott
Ormond, Richard (2005). The Monarch of the Glen: Landseer in the
Highlands. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland.
Stephens, Frederic G. (1880). Sir Edwin Landseer. London: Sampson Low,
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Edwin Landseer.
Landseer Gallery at MuseumSyndicate
Web Gallery of Art—more examples of Landseer's work.
The Royal Collection—Landseer works belonging to the British Royal
Royal Academy of Arts Collection[permanent dead link]—The Royal
Academy's collection of Landseer works features a large number of
early sketches by the artist.
Google Art Project—Landseer works on Google Art Project.
Works by Edwin Henry Landseer at Project Gutenberg
Works by Edwin Henry Landseer (illustrator) at Faded Page (Canada)
Works by or about
Edwin Landseer at Internet Archive
146 Painting(s) by or after
Edwin Landseer at the
Art UK site
ISNI: 0000 0001 1449 2104
BNF: cb14978087j (data)