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Edwin Landseer

edwin landseer, edwin landseer monarch of the glen
Sir Edwin Henry Landseer RA 7 March 1802 – 1 October 1873 was an English painter and sculptor,[1] well known for his paintings of animals – particularly horses, dogs, and stags However, his best known works are the lion sculptures in Trafalgar Square


  • 1 Life
  • 2 Painting
  • 3 Sculpture
  • 4 Death
  • 5 Miscellaneous
  • 6 Gallery
  • 7 See also
  • 8 Notes
  • 9 References
  • 10 External links


Landseer 1873

Landseer was born in London, the son of the engraver John Landseer ARA[2] 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[3] 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[2] Much of his fame—and his income—was generated by the publication of engravings of his work, many of them by his brother Thomas[4]

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[5]

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[6] He taught both Victoria and Albert to etch,[7] and made portraits of Victoria's children as babies, usually in the company of a dog[8] He also made two portraits of Victoria and Albert dressed for costume balls, at which he was a guest himself[9] 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[10]

The Monarch of the Glen, 1851: the image was widely distributed in steel engravings

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[11] The paintings included his early successes The Hunting of Chevy Chase 1825–26, An Illicit Whisky Still in the Highlands 1826–29 and his more mature achievements, such as the majestic stag study Monarch of the Glen 1851 and Rent Day in the Wilderness 1855–68[12] In 1828, he was commissioned to produce illustrations for the Waverley Edition of Sir Walter Scott's novels[11]

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 1827, 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

Landseer's painting Laying Down The Law 1840 satirises the legal profession through anthropomorphism It shows a group of dogs, with a poodle symbolising the Lord Chancellor[13]

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[14] 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[15] 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 both of 1864 are pessimistic in tone[2] The latter shows two polar bears toying with the bones of the dead and other remains, from Sir John Franklin's failed arctic expedition[16] 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 holding her daughter Maysie,[17]


One of four Lions around the base of Nelson's Column Old Shepherd's Chief Mourner 1837; Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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[18] The lions were made at the Kensington studio of Carlo Marochetti,[19] who also cast them Work was slowed by Landseer's ill health, and his fractious relationship with Marochetti The sculptures were installed in 1867[18]


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[20] 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[21]


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

The architect Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens was named after him and was his godson—Lutyens' father was a friend of Landseer


See also

  • List of wildlife artists
  • Lost artworks


  1. ^  Monkhouse, William Cosmo 1885 "Landseer, Edwin Henry" In Stephen, Leslie Dictionary of National Biography 2 London: Smith, Elder & Co pp 64–68 
  2. ^ 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 
  3. ^ Ormond, Monarch 125
  4. ^ Stephens 1880, p 4
  5. ^ Soniak, Matt 18 February 2009 "Why Are St Bernards Always Depicted With Barrels Around Their Necks" Mental Floss Retrieved 5 February 2018 
  6. ^ Manson 1902, p 102
  7. ^ Manson 1902, p 104
  8. ^ Manson 1902, p 105
  9. ^ Manson 1902, p 106
  10. ^ Manson 1902, p 107
  11. ^ a b Hamlyn, Robin 1993 Robert Vernon's Gift London: The Tate Gallery p 31 ISBN 1-85437-116-9 
  12. ^ "Rent-day in the Wilderness 1868 – National Galleries Scotland" 
  13. ^ Manson 1902, p 101
  14. ^ The Times, Saturday, 4 May 1861; pg 12; Issue 23924; col A
  15. ^ Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine Vol 90 550 Aug 1861 Page 211
  16. ^ Manson 1902, p 161
  17. ^ Sherwood, Dolly, Harriet Hosmer: American Sculptor 1830–1908, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1991 p 266
  18. ^ a b Mace, Rodney 1975 Trafalgar Square:Emblem of Empire London: Lawrence & Wishart pp 107–8 ISBN 085315-367-1 
  19. ^ 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 
  20. ^ Ormond, Monarch 135
  21. ^ JMillais, John Guille 1899 'Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais 2 London: Methuen p 47 


  • Manson, James A 1902 Sir Edwin Landseer RA London: Walter Scott Publishing Co 
  • 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, Marston 

External links

  • Landseer Gallery at MuseumSyndicate
  • The Royal Collection—Landseer works belonging to the British Royal Family
  • 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 Paintings by or after Edwin Landseer at the Art UK site

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