The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Charles Landseer, 1799-1879

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1799.08.12
Place of Birth: London
Date of Death: 1879.07.22
Place of Death: London


Charles Landseer was a painter and etcher, who came from a family of artists. His father John Landseer was an engraver and etcher and his uncle Henry Landseer (fl. 1820-6) was a landscape painter. Charles Landseer had six surviving siblings, all of whom were artists: Thomas (1795-80), Jane (b. 1795), Edwin Henry (1802-73), Anna Maria (1805-71), Jessica ('Jessie') (1807-80) and Emma (1809-95). Thomas Landseer's son George Landseer (1829-78) was a portrait and landscape painter.


Landseer initially trained as an engraver and etcher under his father. He then studied under Benjamin Robert Haydon and at the Royal Academy Schools. Landseer made his début at the Royal Academy in 1828 with Dorothea, an illustration from Cervantes's Don Quixote. In this year he also showed a number of drawings at the British Institution made during his trip to Portugal and Brazil in the company of Sir Charles Stuart de Rothesay, who had sought a commercial treaty with Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil.

Landseer continued to exhibit at the Royal Academy until his death, showing portraits, genre scenes, animal studies, literary subjects, and, most notably, romanticized history paintings, e.g. The Plundering of Basing House, 1645 (exh. RA 1836; Tate Gallery, London). These showed a concern for precision in execution and accuracy of detail in costumes and accessories.

He also exhibited at the Society of British Artists, a society which elected JW its President in 1886. In 1887, when JW was attempting to gain a Royal Charter for the SBA, he made mention of Landseer as being among the illustrious artists who had shown their work at the society's first exhibition (#05281).

In 1837 Landseer was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, becoming a full member in 1845. In 1851 he succeeded George Jones as Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools, but was criticized for his bad teaching and because it was felt that his brother's influence had secured the post. He retired in 1873. He bequeathed 10,000 guineas to the Royal Academy for the foundation of the Landseer Scholarships.


Obituary, Illustrated London News, 2 August 1879, pp. 109-10; Obituary, Art Journal, vol. 18, 1879, p. 217; Obituary, Athenaeum, 2 August 1879, pp. 153-54; Wood, Christopher, Dictionary of Victorian Painters, Woodbridge, 1971; Upstone, Robert, 'Charles Landseer', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed 20 December 2002).