Alfred Edward Chalon

(15 Febuary 1780 - 3 October 1860)

Alfred Chalon was born in Geneva to French parents. His father became a professor at the Royal Military College in Sandhurst, and the family moved to England. In 1797, Chalon enrolled at the Royal Academy schools. He first exhibited at the academy in 1810; was elected an associate two years later and became an academician in 1816. Chalon's talents lay in painting miniature watercolour portraits. His work became highly fashionable, especially in court circles. He came to the attention of Queen Victoria and she asked him to paint her first visit to the House of Lords in 1837. Afterwards, the queen appointed him as painter in watercolour.

In 1812. Chalon with his artist brother co-founded The Sketching Society. The artist is well-noted for his portraits of the aristocratic and important members of English society including his portrait of the young Queen Victoria, who appointed Chalon as watercolorist to the queen. The artist created paintings and drawings of historical subject matter and themes from mythology.

*About the image:
Unknown man, formerly known as Alfred Edward Chalon, by Unknown artist - pastel, circa 1810-1850. National Portrait Gallery, London
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(1780–1860), Portrait and subject painter, younger brother of John James Chalon [q. v.], was born at Geneva, Switzerland on 15 Feb. 1780. He was intended, like his brother, for a commercial life; but he took early to art, and entered the Academy schools [12-August] 1797. In 1808 he became a member of the Society of Associated Artists in Water Colours. In the same year he founded, with his brother John and six others, the ‘Evening Sketching Society,’ the meetings of which were continued for forty years, and of which a full account will be found in the Recollections of T. Ewins, and in the Recollections and Letters of C. R. Leslie.’ He exhibited his first picture at the Royal Academy in 1810. In 1812 [A.R.A: 02-Nov] he was elected associate of that body, and became a full member in 1816 [R.A: 10-Feb]. ‘He then and for many years afterwards was the most fashionable portrait painter in water colours.

His full-length portraits in this manner, usually about fifteen inches high, were full of character, painted with a dashing grace, and never commonplace; the draperies and accessories drawn with great spirit and elegance.’ In his younger days he painted some good miniatures on ivory. Chalon was the first to paint Queen Victoria after her accession to the throne, and received the appointment of painter in water colours to the queen. As a portrait painter in this medium he had an extraordinary and almost unparalleled vogue; but he survived his fame. In 1855, the year following his brother's death, he exhibited, at the rooms of the Society of Arts in the Adelphi, a collection of his own and of John Chalon's works, but it does not seem to have attracted much attention. Leslie, his friend and warm admirer, writes: ‘It was to me a proof, if I had wanted one, of the non-appreciation of colour at the present time that the exhibition of J. and A. Chalon's pictures failed to attract notice.’ If water colours were the medium best suited to his genius, Chalon nevertheless painted a vast number of works in oils, having exhibited altogether upwards of three hundred oil paintings at the Royal Academy and elsewhere in the course of his life. Among his best-known subject pictures may be mentioned ‘Hunt the Slipper,’ 1831; ‘John Knox reproving the Ladies of Queen Mary's Court,’ 1837; ‘Serena,’ 1847; ‘Sophia Western,’ 1857. He was clever in imitating the styles of other painters, and particularly of Watteau, whose pictures he greatly admired.

Chalon had made a large collection of his own and his brother's drawings and paintings. In 1859 he offered them to the inhabitants of Hampstead, together with some endowments for the maintenance of the collection; but the scheme fell through. He then offered them to the nation, with a similarly unsatisfactory result. Late in life he retired with his brother to an old house on Campden Hill, Kensington, and there died, 3 Oct. 1860. His numerous friends bore unanimous testimony to the delightful social qualities of the man, and were ungrudging in their recognition of his genius.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Painters; Ottley's Supplement to Bryan's Dict. of Painters; Graves's Dict. of Artists; Athenæum, June to December 1860, pp. 487, 756, 792; Art Journal, 1860, p. 337, 1862, p. 9, an article upon A. E. Chalon by James Dafforne; Autobiographical Recollections of C. R. Leslie, ed. Tom Taylor, 2 vols. passim; Recollections of T. Ewins, 2 vols. 1853, passim.]

‘Les Grâces’ - ballerinas Carolotta Grisi, Amalia Ferraris and Marie Taglioni II. Signed, inscribed and dated 1850; pencil and watercolour heightened with white arched top, 24 × 17 ins. Exhibited: Royal Academy, 1851, no. 1139; Royal Academy, Winter Exhibition 1951–1952, The First Hundred Years of the Royal Academy 1769–1868, no. 503 (lent by Minto Wilson, Esq.).

Literature: This watercolour appears in a supplement to The Illustrated London News.

In 1845 Alfred Edward Chalon produced the very popular Pas de Quatre (Grisi/Taglioni/Grahn/Cerrito) watercolour for a lithograph, which sold extremely well. With the success of Les Grâces at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1850, he was very likely to want to repeat the earlier success with this watercolour. However, the heyday of the Romantic Ballet period was over by 1850, peaking about 1847, and this work does not, therefore, appear to have been reproduced as a lithograph. The ballet, Les Grâces, was first performed at Her Majesty’s Theatre on 2nd May 1850, with choreography by Paul Taglioni (1808-1884), music by Cesar Pugni, and starring Carlotta Grisi (1819-1899), Amalia Ferraris (1830-1904) and Marie Taglioni II (1833-1891). This work, though produced after the height of the Romantic Ballet era of the mid 1840s, and was one of about 40 choreographed by Paul Taglioni, ballet master from 1849-1851, and Her Majesty’s. Les Grâces marked the London debut of Ferraris who went on to great success in Paris where, from 1853, she was prima ballerina for 7 years. However, Les Grâces was never performed in Paris where Carlotta Grisi, the senior ballerina, had first created the role of Giselle in 1841. Shown in the centre of this watercolour, Carlotta was to retire 3 years later. Marie Taglioni II, then age 17, was Paul’s daughter, niece of the famous Marie Taglioni, and already making a name for herself.