John Bagnold Burgess

(21 October 1830 - 12 November 1897)




Burgess was born in Chelsea, [London] into a family of artists. His great-grandfather, Thomas Burgess, was the teacher of Gainsborough. Burgess studied in London where Edwin Long and Philip Hermogenes Calderon were among his fellow classmates. A visit to Spain with Long was the first of many trips that influenced Burgess’ adoption of Spanish subjects. Royal Academy student from: 26 April 1849. Elected A.R.A. 18 June 1877; Elected R.A. 05 December 1888







John Bagnold Burgess was a painter of Spanish genre scenes. Born in Chelsea in 1829. The son of H.W. Burgess, a landscape painter to William IV. John exhibited works at the Royal Academy, the British Institution and the Society of British Artists at Suffolk Street. Burgess started his career by painting portraits and genre works, before travelling to Spain in 1858, accompanied by his friend and fellow artist Edwin Long, who would become his travelling companion on future painting trips to the country. For the next thirty years, Burgess was a visitor to Spain, often spending days with Spanish peasants, living their life and sharing their food. He also went to Morocco at least once.



"... His efforts to establish himself on an independent footing were begun by painting portraits, but his poetic and imaginative nature soon began to resent the trammels of such comparatively prosaic work. Taking advantage of certain family connections residing in Seville, he very soon went off to Spain; and had it not been for the tendency of the British public to associate certain artists with certain countries or classes of subjects, and to look upon others who may venture upon the same ground as pirates and poachers, there can be little reason why J.B. Burgess should not have become some time since celebrated for his interpretations of Spanish life and character."

[Excerpt: The Magazine of Art, Vol.V, London-Paris 1882.]

"Burgess began by painting portraits and English genre, but did not make any great mark before he went to Spain in 1858, to visit some relatives at Seville. From this time forward for some thirty years Burgess visited Spain annually, and devoted his life to the study of Spanish life and character. Once, at least, he went over to Morocco and made sketches, but with the exception of one or two Moorish pictures and an occasional portrait, the subjects of his pictures were henceforth almost exclusively Spanish.

In the course of twenty-eight years (1870-1897) he exhibited seventy-three pictures at the Royal Academy, fifteen at the British Institution, and thirty or forty at other exhibitions. But his work was always carefully prepared and thoroughly executed. His subjects were incidents in ordinary Spanish life, telling tales of humour and pathos."

[Excerpt: Sidney Lee (ed.), Dictionary of National Biography, Suppl. Vol. I, London 1901.]

"If, upon Dr. Johnson's principle, those who paint the manners, tone, and temper of Spain with the veracity which is conspicuous in this artist, should themselves be Spanish in feeling and character, then assuredly Mr. Burgess is by right the very man for the work."

[Excerpt: Wilfrid Meynell: The Modern School of Art, Volume II, London 1887.]
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