John Callcott Horsley
John Callcott Horsley RA (29 January 1817 – 18 October 1903), was an
English Academic painter of genre and historical scenes, illustrator,
and designer of the first Christmas card. He was a member of the
artist's colony in Cranbrook.
1 Childhood and education
2 Family life
4 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
Childhood and education
Horsley was born in London, the son of William Horsley, the musician,
and grand-nephew of Sir Augustus Callcott. His sister Mary Elizabeth
Horsley wed the famous British engineer
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel in
1836. Horsley was mentored by
William Mulready and Augustus Wall
Callcot who sent him at age thirteen to study at Dr Henry Sass's
academy where he met D.G Rossetti, J. Millais and W.P. Frith; in his
biography Horsley recalls Dr Sass as being vain and untalented.
Following preparatory school Horsley studied painting at the Royal
Academy schools where he met Thomas Webster. In 1836 he exhibited The
Pride of the Village (Vernon Gallery) at the Royal Academy.
Horsley married Elvira Walter in 1846 with whom he had three sons:
Edward (1848), Frank (1849), and Harry (1850). Elvira died of
consumption in 1852 followed by the deaths of Edward and Harry in 1854
and Frank in 1857 due to scarlet fever.
Horsley remarried to Rosamund Haden who came from a family of
distinguished surgeons—her father Charles Haden had a practice in
Sloan Street and her brother
Francis Seymour Haden
Francis Seymour Haden was a surgeon and
etcher who founded the Royal Society of Painters, Etchers and
Engravers in 1880. Rosamund gave birth to Walter (1855), Hugh (1856),
Victor (1857), Emma (1858), Fanny (1859), Gerald (1862) and Rosamund
(1864). Gerald grew up to be an architect, Walter an artist also
studying at the RA Schools, and Victor a surgeon. Sir Victor
Horsley (born 1857), became famous as a surgeon and neuropathologist,
and a prominent supporter of the cause of experimental research.
Horsley and Rosamund had four more children: Emma (1858), Fanny
(1859), Gerald (1862) and Rosamund (1864), losing Hugh and Emma to
After his wedding to Rosamund in 1854 Horsley and his new wife toured
the Midlands for five months to establish contacts with wealthy
industrialists for portrait commissions. Horsley moved into
'Willesley', his house in Cranbrook in 1861, joining the Cranbrook
Colony; whilst maintaining a home in London. The architect Richard
Shaw adds "...tall chimneys and cosy 'inglenooks.'" in the Jacobean
style to 'Willesley'.
Horsley's paintings were largely of historical subjects set in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, influenced by the Dutch masters
Pieter de Hooch
Pieter de Hooch and Vermeer. Examples are "Malvolio", "L'Allegro
and il Penseroso" (painted for the Prince Consort), "Le Jour des
Morts" and "A Scene from Don Quixote".
As a young artist Horsley was patronised buy the collector John
Sheepshanks, who bought two of Horsley's paintings: ''The Rival
Performers (1839), and ''Youth and Age (1839); both of which are now
part of the V&A collection.
In 1843 his cartoon (preliminary drawing) of "St Augustine Preaching"
won a prize in the competition to provide interior decorations for
Palace of Westminster. This led to his being selected in 1844 he was
as one of the six painters commissioned to execute frescoes there.
He painted "Religion" (1845) in the House of Lords, "Henry V assuming
the Crown" and "Satan touched by Ithuriel's Spear while whispering
evil dreams to Eve". In 1864 he became a Royal Academician (RA).
Horsley had much to do with organizing the winter exhibitions of "Old
Burlington House after 1870.
Horsley was rector and treasurer of the
Royal Academy from 1875 to
1890 and 1882 to 1897 respectively. He earned the nickname
'Clothes-Horsley' for his opposition to the use of nude life
models. When, during the 1880s, the example of the French Salon
began to affect the Academy exhibitors, and paintings of the nude
became the fashion, he protested against the innovation, and his
attitude caused Punch to give him the sobriquet of "Mr J. C(lothes)
Horsley" (a pun on clothes horse).
Protests against the nude in 1885 asumed a variety of forms: Moore's
White Hydrangea was damaged by a 'scratching fiend' during the summer
exhibition and life studies executed by Academy students were stolen.
However, it was a letter printed in
The Times on 20 May which proved
the catalyst for igniting a national controversy around the exhibition
of the nude. The letter was titled 'A Woman's Plea' and signed
'British Matron'. In fact it was penned by J. C. Horsley ...
He resigned from the academy in 1897, and became a "retired
The world's first Christmas card
Horsley designed the first ever Christmas card, commissioned by Henry
Cole. It caused some controversy because it depicted a small child
drinking wine. He also designed the Horsley envelope, a pre-paid
envelope that was the precursor to the postage stamp.
In 1856 Horsley was photographed at "The Photographed Institute" by
Robert Howlett, as part of a series of portraits of "fine artists".
The picture was among a group exhibited at the Art Treasures
Manchester in 1857.
Horsley was a member of the London-based Etching Club contributing
illustrations to editions of "The Deserted Village" (Oliver Goldsmith
and "Songs of Shakespeare". He also illustrated a number of other
books including "Little Princes" by Eliza Slater (London: Henry G.
This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain
unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. Please help to
improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (January
2014) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
^ a b c d e f The Cranbrook Colony: Fresh Perspectives, Wolverhampton
Art Gallery, 2010
^ The complex history surrounding the decoration is best summarized by
T. S. R. Boase, The Decorations of the New Palace of Westminster
1841-1863, in: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes
17:1954, pp. 319–358.
^ John Callcott Horsley, R.A.,
Royal Academy of Arts Collections
^ See Lucinda Hawksley (2013) The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen
Victoria's Rebellious Daughter
^ Smith, Alison (1996). The Victorian Nude.
Press. p. 227.
^ "Robert Howlett". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online
ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/101058919.
(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Horsley, John
Callcott". Encyclopædia Britannica. 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge
University Press. p. 739.
Horsley, J. C. Recollections of a Royal Academician (London: J.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to John Callcott Horsley.
42 Painting(s) by or after
John Callcott Horsley
John Callcott Horsley at the Art UK
J C Horsley online (ArtCyclopedia)
J C Horsley biography and paintings(thesussexweald.org)
J C Horsley paintings (Art Renewal Center Museum)
John Callcott Horsley
John Callcott Horsley at Find a Grave
Works by J C Horsley (
Royal Academy of Arts)
Works by J C Horsley (V & A, London)
Christmas card history
Wedding rings (1883 painting)
Showing a preference (1860 painting)
The unwilling salute[permanent dead link] (Sotheby's)
The Contrast: Youth and Age (1839 painting)
ISNI: 0000 0000 6660 0034
BNF: cb14969391n (data)