George Henry Boughton

(December 4, 1833 - January 19, 1905)

Life and work

Boughton was born in Norwich in Norfolk, England, the son of farmer William Boughton. The family emigrated to the United States in 1835, and he grew up in Albany, New York where he started his career as a self-taught artist. At this early stage he was influenced by the artists of the Hudson River School; other influences included Edward May, with whom he studied during a visit to Paris, and Édouard Frère. By the age of 19 he was recognised as a landscape painter and opened his first studio in 1852. In 1853, the American Art Union purchased one of his early pictures which financed six months of studying art in England. He concluded this period of his training with a sketching tour of the Lake District, Scotland, and Ireland.

After coming back to the USA, Boughton exhibited his works in Washington, D.C. and New York, but in the late 1850s he finally made a decision to move to Europe. From 1859–61, he studied art in France under Pierre Edouard Frère (1819-1886) and Edward Harrison May (1824-1887).

In 1861, Boughton opened a studio in London, and, although living in England, nevertheless focused on subjects of early American Colonial history, and an American critic noticed that "for early history of this country his talents seems to be peculiarly fitted." His subject-pictures, such as the "Early Puritans of New England Going to Church" (1867), were especially popular. "The "Return of the Mayflower" (shown at the Goupil Gallery, New York in 1871) was praised as "as a picture which will live as long as the memory of the Mayflower itself lasts."

Vincent Van Gogh, who lived London in 1873–75, was much impressed by Boughton’s painting "Godspeed! Pilgrims Setting Out for Canterbury". Then working as a minister, he gave a sermon inspired by the painting, and wrote about it to his brother Theo. The Boughton painting is now part of the collection of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Boughton illustrated Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poems. In 1893, the edition of Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle and Sleepy Hollow was published in London with 53 illustrations by Boughton. A London critic once declared that he "has learnt the secret of putting natural feelings into rustic figures, which has been almost entirely wanting to English painters."

Boughton exhibited extensively in both Britain and USA, and was elected a member of the National Academy of Design in New York in 1871. He was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, an Associate of the Royal Academy (ARA) in 1879, and a Royal Academician (RA) in 1896. "He was a useful and popular member of this body, and worked well as member of the council, as a 'hanger', and as a teacher in the schools." After the death of John Callcott Horsley, Boughton was elected a Director of the "Fine Art and General Insurance Company".

Among his landscape paintings - views of England and Brittany in France. In 1883, he travelled to Holland. His illustrated account of that journey was published in the Harper's Magazine as "Artist Strolls in Holland", and published next year in London as Sketching Rambles in Holland.

Boughton obviously took pleasure in writing: later he would participate in the publication of the English Art in the Public Galleries of London providing the overview of George Morland's biography and work.

Boughton easily socialised in London artistic circles and was a member of the Arts Club (1869–1896), of the Reform Club, the Athenaeum Club, the Burlington Fine Arts Club and the Grolier and Lotos Clubs in New York.

In 1865, Boughton married Katherine Louise Cullen (1845-after 1901), and they had an adopted daughter, Florence. Along with John Callcott Horsley, he was one of the early clients of architect Richard Norman Shaw who built a house for the Boughtons on Campden Hill, London. "The parties given here by Mr. and Mrs. Boughton were celebrated among artistic and literary people and in the Anglo-American section of the society."

It was noticed that Boughton was influenced by works of British painter and illustrator Frederick Walker (1840–1875). In the 1870s in London he met James Whistler. In 1878, an American reviewer praised them as "shining lights in the art world" of London. Boughton published vivid recollections about Whistler, particularly mentioning his work on the famous ‘Peacock Room'. In 1877, he made an acquiaintance with Henry James (1843–1916).

The female novelist Violet Hunt (1862–1942) based her novels Their Lives (1916), and Their Hearts (1921) on her early love affair with Boughton. The novel Christina Chard (1894), by Mrs. Rosa Campbell-Praed (1851–1935), an Australian novelist, was dedicated to Boughton, because he had suggested the idea of the book.

In the 1880s-1890s, he was associated with several artistic colonies in countryside, namely with the village of Broadway in Worcestershire, the rustic beauty of which was recognised by many American artists. Along with Henry James, Edwin Abbey, John Singer Sargent and others, he frequently visited Broadway. Through Horsley and Shaw he also was associated with the Cranbrook Colony of artists, visiting them in the late 1860s-1880s.

Boughton died of heart disease, in his studio at Campden Hill, London. His obituary stated that "he was kindly, genial, humorous, a lover of a good story, the essence of hospitality, and wholly free from jealousy, malice, and incharitable judgments." His paintings are now represented in many museums in the United States and Europe. en.Wikipedia

GEORGE HENRY BOUGHTON, (1833-1905), painter and illustrator, was born on 4 December 1833, at a village near Norwich where his father, William Boughton, was occupied in farming. Taken by his parents to America in 1834, he was educated at the High School, Albany, New York.

At an early age he began painting without any regular teacher, and won success by the exhibition of his picture 'The Wayfarer' at the American Art Union Exhibition in New York.

In 1856, he spent some months in travelling, sketching, and studying art in the British Isles; and returning to New York made his next success with 'Winter Twilight,' exhibited in 1858, at the New York Academy of Design. In 1860, he went to Paris, not entering on any regular course of study, but receiving much help from Edward May, a pupil of Couture, and afterwards from Edouard Frère. After working for two years in France, he started on his homeward journey, but made a halt in London, and finally settled there for the rest of his career.

In 1862 and 1863, he exhibited two pictures each year at the British Institution. To the Royal Academy in 1863, he contributed 'Through the Fields' and 'Hop-pickers returning'; and from this year till his death never failed to exhibit annually, sending eighty-seven pictures in all. He became an associate of the Royal Academy in 1879, and a full member in 1896. In 1879 he was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-colour. Never attempting anything beyond his range, Boughton brought his freshness of imagination to bear on a variety of themes, noteworthy always for their delicate poetry and touch of sentiment. Whether grave or gay, imaginative or seriously didactic, he stamped his work with a personal and original touch.

Two classes of subject he made peculiarly his own: the one, scenes of peasant life and quaint costume in Brittany and Holland; the other, New England history and romance in the puritan days of Evangeline and Hester Prynne. His 'Weeding the Pavement' (1882), is in the Tate Gallery; 'The Road to Camelot' (1898), in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; and 'A Dutch Ferry' (1883), in the Whitworth Institute, Manchester.

Other of his more important works are:
'The Waning of the Honeymoon' (1878);
'Hester Prynne' (1881);
'Muiden, N. Holland';
'An Exchange of Greetings' (1882);
'Milton visited by Andrew Marvell' (1885);
'Golden Afternoon, the Isle of Wight' (1888, now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York);
'After Midnight Mass, 15th Century' (1897); and
'When the Dead Leaves Fall' (1898, Municipal Gallery, Rome).

Boughton also made a name as an illustrator; and his water-colours, pastels, and black-and-white drawings were remarkable for their fine quality. Among books which he illustrated were Rip Van Winkle (1893), and, for the Grolier Club of New York, Irving's Knickerbocker History (1886), and Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter. His Sketching Rambles in Holland (1885), is noteworthy not only for its illustrations, by Boughton and his fellow-traveller, Edwin Austin Abbey [q. v. Suppl. II], but for the vividness and charm of its narrative. Boughton also contributed short stories, from time to time, to Harper's Magazine and the Pall Mall Magazine, and for the Studio (1904), he wrote an interesting article on his friend Whistler, under the title of "A Few of the Various Whistlers I have known."

Boughton died on 19 Jan. 1905, from heart disease, at his residence, West House, Campden Hill, which had been built for him by his friend, Mr. Norman Shaw. He was cremated at Golder's Green, where his ashes are deposited. An exhibition of his remaining works was held at the Leicester Galleries in 1905. On 9 Feb. 186, he had married Katherine Louisa, daughter of Thomas Cullen, M.D. A portrait of him by John Pettie [q. v.] is in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

The Portfolio, 1871, article by Sir Sidney Colvin; G. H. Boughton, R.A., His Life and Work, by A. L. Baldry: (Art Journal, Christmas Art Annual, 1904); The Times, 21 Jan. 1905; Who's Who, 1905; Graves' British Institution and Royal Academy Exhibitors; Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 Supplement, Broughton, George Henry, by Marcus Hartog

In 1862, two of Boughton's paintings were exhibited in the British Institution. He submitted two pieces to the Royal Academy in 1863, and over the next forty-two years Boughton exhibited eighty-seven pieces there. He made London his permanent home in 1862, married Katherine Louise Cullen on Feb. 9, 1865, became a full member of the Royal Academy in 1896, and died in 1905 of heart disease (Hardie).

Rembered as a figure and genre painter, Boughton illustrated works by American writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Washington Irving. He also wrote a narrative about his travels in Holland, the aptly titled Sketching Rambles in Holland (1885). Along with Elihu Vedder, he is mentioned by contemporaries as one of the most gifted artists of his day. An 1870 art critic suggests that Boughton was a humorist as well as a "poet-painter," and his pictures "have always had something in them -- something well rendered, and something personal" (E. Benson). His work was also admired by Vincent Van Gogh. Boughton may have been involved in the production of the Saturday Press (G. Lathrop). William Winter lists him as someone who frequented Pfaff's (Old Friends).


G. H. Boughton, Obituary (The Times, 21 January 1905).
A Successful Painter (New York Times, 14 October 1888).
"Boughton, George Henry", Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography; D. Appleton, (1888).
"Boughton, George Henry"; Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.), Hugh Chisholm, ed. (1911).

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