John Collier (artist)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
English erotica

John Maler Collier (January 27, 1850April 11,1934) was a British writer and painter in the Pre-Raphaelite style, known for his renditions of Lilith (1892) and Lady Godiva (c. 1898).

Subjects

Collier's range of portrait subjects was broad. In 1893, for example, his subjects included the Bishop of Shrewsbury (Sir Lovelace Stamer), A Glass of Wine with Caesar Borgia, Sir John Lubbock FRS, A N Hornby (Captain of the Lancashire Eleven), A Witch, A Tramp, and the Bishop of Hereford (Dr Atlee).

His commissioned portrait of King George V as Master of Trinity House in 1901 when Duke of Cornwall and York shows the extent of his fashionable reputation.

Other subjects included two Lord Chancellors (the Earl of Selborne in 1882 and the Earl of Halsbury in 1898), the Lord Chief Justice Lord Alverstone (1912), and the Master of the Rolls (Sir George Jessel, 1881); Rudyard Kipling (1891); the painter (Sir) Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1884); the actors J. L. Toole (1887) and Madge Kendal, Ellen Terry and Herbert Beerbohm Tree (in "The Merry Wives of Windsor", 1904); heads of houses such as the Master of Balliol (Professor Caird, 1904), the Warden of Wadham College, Oxford (G E Thorley, 1889) and the Provost of Eton (1898); the Speaker of the House of Commons (1898, one of relatively few political subjects); soldiers such as Field Marshal Lord Kitchener of Khartoum (1911) and Field Marshall Sir Frederick Haines (1891); two Indian Maharajahs, including the Maharajah of Nepal (1910); and scientists including Charles Darwin (1882), Dr Joule FRS (1882) and the artist’s father-in-law Professor Huxley (1891).

A photocopy of John Collier's Sitters Book (made in 1962 from the original in the possession of the artist's son) can be consulted in the National Portrait Gallery Heinz Archive and Library. This is the artist's own handwritten record of all his portraits, including name of subject, date, fee charged, and details of any major exhibitions of the picture in question.

The artist's family

Collier was from a talented and successful family. His grandfather, John Collier, was a Quaker merchant who became a Member of Parliament. His father (who was a Member of Parliament, Attorney General and, for many years, a full-time judge of the Privy Council was created the first Lord Monkswell. He was also a member of the Royal Society of British Artists. John Collier's elder brother, the second Lord Monkswell, was Under-Secretary of State for War and Chairman of the London County Council.

Collier was also closely connected with the family of the arch-scientist of late Victorian England, the Rt Hon Professor Thomas Henry Huxley, President of the Royal Society. Collier married two of Professor Huxley's daughters and was "on terms of intimate friendship" with his son, the writer Leonard Huxley (Dictionary of National Biography s.v. L. Huxley).

Collier's first wife, in 1879, was Marian Huxley. She was a painter, who studied, like her husband, at the Slade, and exhibited at the Royal Academy and elsewhere. After the birth of their only child, a daughter, she suffered severe post-natal depression and was taken to Paris for treatment where, however, she contracted pneumonia and died in 1887.

Shortly afterwards, Collier married in 1889 her younger sister Ethel Huxley. Until the Deceased Wife's Sister's Marriage Act 1907 such a marriage was not possible in England and the ceremony took place in Norway. Collier's daughter by his first marriage, Joyce, was a portrait miniaturist, and a member of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters. By his second wife he had a daughter and a son, Sir Laurence Collier KCMG, who was the British Ambassador to Norway 1941-51.

Posthumous reputation

Collier died in 1934. His entry in the Dictionary of National Biography (volume for 1931-40, published 1949) compares his work to that of Frank Holl because of its solemnity. This is only true, however, of his many portraits of distinguished old men — his portraits of younger men, women and children, and his so-called "problem pictures", covering scenes of ordinary life, are often very bright and fresh.

His entry in the Dictionary of Art (1996) vol 7 p 569, written by Geoffrey Ashton, refers to the invisibility of his brush strokes as a "rather unexciting and flat use of paint" but contrasts that with "Collier's strong and surprising sense of colour" which "created a disconcerting verisimilitude in both mood and appearance".

The Dictionary of Portrait Painters in Britain up to 1920 (1997) describes his portraits as "painterly works with a fresh use of light and colour".




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