Sir Edwin Landseer, RA British, 1802-1873

Born in London, Sir Edwin Landseer was the son of the engraver John Landseer, ARA. An artistic prodigy, he was exhibiting at the Royal Academy by the age of thirteen and went on to enjoy great popularity during his lifetime. Best known for his animail paintings, Landseer also made portraits, including of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children. His work is in a range of public collections, including the Tate, the Wallace Collection and the V&A Museum.

 

He was a talented student of Charles Robert Leslie who expounded him as "a curly young man splitting time between Polito's Beast at Exeter Chunke and the Royal Academy of Arts." They also visited Scotland together in 1824. This tour is remembered to have had a big impact on Landseer. In 1823, Landseer was asked to paint a portrait of the Duchess of Bedford, Georgiana Russell. Despite the fact that she was twenty years older than him, they started an affair.

 

In 1858, after the stone carved work of Thomas Milnes was rejected, the government asked Landseer to build four bronze lions at the base of the Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square. Landseer further delayed the process when he accepted that he didn't have to start work for another nine months and requested a copy of the cast of a real lion that he knew was owned by the Turin Academy.

 

In 1950, Edwin was knighted. In 1966, he was elected as the president of Royal Academy but he declined the invitation and refused to hold the position of being the president of Royal Academy. Landseer, in his late thirties, suffered severely from what is now believed to be a substantial nervous breakdown. Haplessly, for the rest of his life, he was troubled by the recurring bouts of melancholy, hypochondria, and depression, often aggravated by alcohol and drug use. All these health related issues caused him mental retardation that led him to be declared as insane with the consent of his family in July 1872.

 

Landseer was a celebrity in British art in the 19th century, and his work can be found in Tate Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Kenwood House, and The Wallace Collection in London. He also collaborated with his fellow painter Frederick Richard Lee. Landseer's popularity in Victorian Britain was considerable, and his reputation as an animal painter was unparalleled. Much of his fame and income came from publishing sculptures of his work, and much of it from his younger brother Thomas.