Edwin James Douglas

(14 July 1848 - December 1914)


Edwin Douglas, Animal Lover and Animal Painter -- Do Models Hinder Art?

Mr. Edwin Douglas, Animal Lover and Animal Painter.

WITH Mr. Edwin Douglas was born a great love of animals. He remembers to thls day how, when taken to an agricultural show as a small boy, he fell deeply in love with a tiny Brittany cow, whose silky cleanliness fascinated him. The desire firmly seized him to become an animal painter. His father, however, opposed his wishes strongly, and, had it not been for a fortunate accident, he might have been a solicitor at this day, instead of one of the most popular and famous of animal painters. On the day before he was to have been articled to a solicitor, as he was stepping into a cart to go for a drive, the horse kicked, bolted, knocked him down, and a wheel of the cart passed over his head, stunning and very seriously injuring him. It was only after three months in bed that he began to recover -- and as he slowly grew stronger, the determination to become an artist grew stronger too, fostered by some of Sir Edwin Landseer's animal pictures, which he was allowed to copy as a relief to the monotony of existence in bed.

On his recovery his father discontinued his opposition to an art career, and the name of Edwin Douglas was entered on the books of the Royal Scottish Academy.

In 1865 he sent his first three pictures to this Academy's exhibition, and all were well hung. Commissions soon followed, many portraits were painted, and many cattle studies; and when, in 1877, a picture called "Milkmaids and Marguerites" was exhibited in the Royal Academy, Edwin Douglas was "discovered" by that very shrewd judge, Mr. Graves, the famous print-seller, who offered to buy the picture.

It was a picture of Jersey cattle and two milkmaids in a daisy-bestrewn field. Mr. Graves made the condition with his offer that the two women who were the milkmaids should be painted out, and one pretty girl painted in, in their place, remarking: " Pretty women sell better than plain ones."

This was eventually done, and the picture and the engravings of it proved extraordinary successes. The five-guinea proofs were soon selling for twenty-five guineas in New York; the plate was retouched and engraved again and again.

It was the time of the boom of Jersey cattle in America, and when Mr. Douglas followed up this success with a series of Channel Island cattle pictures, his labours met with instantaneous reward and fame.

Mr. Douglas enjoys relating how two farmers were examining "Milkmaids and Marguerites," as it hung in the Academy, and one was overheard to remark: "These be Jersey cattle."

"Wal, I thought so," replied the other; "but I see by this catalogue they're called 'Marguerites,' evidently thinking this a new breed of which he had not heard!

Great lover of animals as he is, the subjects of nearly all his most successful animal pictures have been his own property. He himself feeds and attends, studies and converses with his pets day after day, treating them as members of his family. Jersey cows have ever been great favourites.

Going one day to buy a Jersey for himself with a young farmer friend, he remarked, as he looked over the animal: "I don't like her head." To this the smart young farmer made answer: "The head of a cow isn't the most important part from a business point of view" -- to be considerably astonished and abashed at Mr. Douglas's retort, easily proved:

"I can make more out of a cow's head than you can make out of her whole body!

"When Mr. Douglas saw the champion Jersey cow. "Rosy." at a cattle show, he declared that he could never be happy until he owned a heifer calf of hers -- and it seemed that he would have to be unhappy for a long while, for the price of "Rosy'' was one thousand guineas. It happened, however, that "Rosy" passed into the hands of his friend, Sir James Blyth, who gave her next calf to the painter.

Mr. Douglas was made an honorary member of the English Jersey Cattle Society in return for the great popularity and impetus he had given the Jersey breed by his many pictures.

In 1890 he received a commission to paint a little dog belonging to Lady Eliot Drake, called "Tiny." In spite of its size it was wonderfully plucky, and a great hunter of game and rabbits, on which account it was not loved by gamekeepers. To give a correct idea of its diminutive proportions, Mr. Douglas painted "Tiny" standing guard over a dead rabbit. Lady Drake showed the picture to her head keeper, thinking he would admire the wonderful portrait of her pet.

"Aye. it's a beautiful portrait of a rabbit," was the keeper's unexpected remark.

Another story. Having finished his picture, "Evening on the South Downs," he invited to his studio to view his handiwork the old shepherd who had sat as his model. After staring at it open-mouthed for some minutes, the old man suddenly exclaimed: "Bless my soul, and did you do all that gold frame yourself?" Having heard the truth of the matter, he remarked: "I was just thinking you must have been busy if you had done all that your self."

Mr. Douglas' Wife, Christine and "Muffins"

Mr. Douglas lives in a charming bungalow home, designed by himself, situated a few miles back from Worthing on the top of the South Downs. He is isolated enough to have all the fresh air he wants and to be able to do all his work in peace, without being too far away; and here, with his family and his animal pets -- his horses, his dogs, he lives the ideal life of the animal painter.

In the ranks of black-and-white artists there are many who hold exactly opposite views as to the usefulness of models when making black-and-white sketches. Some believe in the model's usefulness -- others as firmly believe that models hinder action, and movement and dramatic effect.

Few hold stronger views as to models than the great French caricaturist, M. Emmanuel Poire, otherwise known as Caran d'Ache. "I am convinced," he has said, "that professional models cannot give a real impression of life and movement. If a man can really change skins as it were, with another, and act a perfect part, dramatically and truthfully -- he does not earn a living as a professional model -- he be comes an actor! And so we do not find great actors among models -- and hence I believe that when quick action and telling dramatism is needed in black-and-white work, an artist is better off without a model.''

Precisely opposite views are held by another renowned black-and-white draughts man -- Mr. Stanley L. Wood, the illustrator of Captain Kettle's adventures. He holds that it is well-nigh impossible to draw a man in a dramatic pose, without the assistance of a model, and at the same time to draw the position accurately. A head alone, he thinks, may be accurately evolved from an artist's inner consciousness -- but not a complete figure in action, with body, arms, fingers, legs, feet, and so on, all true to life.

Pearson's Magazine: Volume 15
January 1, 1903
C. Arthur Pearson Limited - Publisher div

Edwin Douglas flourished between 1869 and 1892. Born in Edinburgh, he was the son of James Douglas, a noted portrait painter, and exhibited his first work at the Royal Scottish Academy at the age of only 17.

Edwin Douglas’s paintings were mainly of a sporting nature and he attracted many notable patrons, including Sir Charles Tennant and Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria purchased a picture of setters, painted by Douglas, as a birthday present for King Edward VII.

Edwin James Douglas painted hunting scenes, dogs and genre. His speciality was Jersey cows; Douglas kept Jersey cows at his home.

He first exhibited at the very young age of 17 at The Royal Scottish Academy. Edwin Douglas first lived in Edinburgh, his address in 1869 was 24 Grange-Loan, Edinburgh. In 1875 he moved south to Guildford then in 1889 to Worthing, in 1890, he built the family home in Findon, Sussex.

Douglas started painting a series of paintings with Jersey cows titled 'The Channel Island Series' in 1878. An article on Edwin Douglas in the Art Journal of 1885 by Walter Armstrong describes 'The Channel Island Series' of four paintings as 'most characteristic', as follows: The first painting of this series is titled "Jersey" showing a milk maid between two tiny Jersey cows. The second painting of the series titled "Alderney" showing a girl carrying cabbages walking by a Jersey cow. The third painting, titled "Sark" describes the above offered painting, which is very probably from this series. The fourth painting titled, "Jersey Family" shows Jersey cows being milked and another tethered. All these paintings have been engraved.

Edwin Douglas patrons included; Queen Victoria, and Edward, Prince of Wales, for whom he painted their favourite horses and dogs. Douglas exhibited at The Royal Academy from 1869 to 1900, a total of 43 paintings, he also exhibited at The Manchester City Art Gallery, The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Royal Scottish Academy and at many other locations. Paintings by Douglas are held at The Tate Gallery, London.


An admirer and follower of Queen Victoria’s best loved artist Sir Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873), Edwin Douglas lived in Edinburgh and studied at the Royal Scottish Academy Schools. He first exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy itself in 1865, subjects in his early years being Scottish genre and historical scenes.

In 1871 as with so many of his compatriots, Douglas moved to London in search of patronage and commissions, having exhibited firstly at the Royal Academy in 1869. He lived in Bedford Gardens subsequently moving to Dorking in 1873 and to the village of Shere near Guildford in 1875.

Douglas continued to paint Scottish subjects throughout his life, but interspersed with portraits and genre. However, it was as a painter of animals and most particularly dogs, for which he was so widely known and admired. It is in his portrayal of dogs that Douglas excelled. As with Landseer, his works can be highly sentimental and his dogs imbued with an anthropomorphic quality.

Douglas was a highly successful artist whose animal paintings, like those of Landseer, struck a chord with Victorian collectors. He exhibited at the Royal Academy 1869-1900, forty one works in total, at the Royal Scottish Academy and other venues in London and the provinces.

Having moved to Findon in Sussex in 1891, Douglas died in 1914, Thakenham, Sussex.

© and ownership: douglashistory.co.uk div

Douglas, Edwin. (Brit.) Born in Edinburgh, 1848. He received his art education in the school of the Royal Scottish Academy; residing in his native city until 1872, since which time he has painted in London and Surrey. He first exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy, in 1865, "A Yeoman's Charger," followed in other years by "The Deer-Path," "Ready to Start," "Willie and his Pets," "The Showman's Girl," "The Doctor's Pony," "The 12th of August," etc. To the Royal Academy, London, he sent in 1869, "The Watch-Tower"; in 1872, "The Bather's Attendant," engraved by James Scott, and "Highland Hearth," engraved by R. B. Parkes. Among his later pictures are, "Crossing the Loch," "Hailing the Ferry," "October Shooting," "The Maiden all Forlorn," "Milkmaids and Marguerites" (R. A., 1878), and "A Family from Jersey" (R. S. A., 1878).

"The place left vacant by Sir Edwin Landseer is in a measure filled by Edwin Douglas. It would be too much to say that he does what his great predecessor did, or that he will ever do as much, although he is young and is certain to progress In more than one instance a picture from his pencil has been taken to be a production of Landseer, and not to the reproach of the greatest master of our time." -- Art Journal, November, 1871.

"Landseer himself had never a finer sense of texture than we have here "Milking-Time in Jersey", and had he found such a subject to paint he could scarcely have rendered it with greater suavity." -- Art Journal, July, 1877.

Artists of the Nineteenth Century and their Works. A Handbook containing Biographical Sketches. By Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton, 1879. div