Sir Alfred Edward East

(15 December 1849 - 28 September 1913)

English painter and etcher, was born at Kettering. One of the most prominent among modern English landscape painters, he received his art education first at the Glasgow School of Art and then in Paris at the École des Beaux-Arts, and under Robert-Fleury and Bouguereau. His landscapes are remarkable for the lyrical use of colour and for the pleasing rhythm of line which is the result of careful selection and building up of the elements that constitute the scene. Based on keen observation of the colour of nature and of careful studies of the details, they are arranged with a rare and by no means obvious sense of balance and compositional beauty which summarily discards all disturbing accidents of nature. He also achieved distinction as an etcher, and published an instructive and useful volume on landscape painting (London, 1906). He began to exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1882, and was elected an associate. In 1906 he became president of the Royal Society of British Artists. Many of his works are to be found in the English provincial galleries; Manchester owns "The Silent Somme" and "Autumn"; Liverpool, "Gibraltar from Algeciras"; Leeds, "The Golden Valley"; Birmingham, "Hayle from Lelant"; Preston, "An Idyll of Spring"; and Hull, "Evening on the Cotswolds." His "Passing Storm" is at the Luxembourg; "The Nene Valley" at the Venice gallery; and "A Haunt of Ancient Peace" at the National gallery in Budapest. In 1903 he received the order of the Crown of Italy in connexion with his services to the Venice international exhibition; and he was made an honorary member of the Japanese Meiji Bijutsu Kai. [1911 Encyclopædia Britannica,Vol. 8]


Sir Alfred Edward East was a noted English artist born in Kettering in Northamptonshire and studied at the Glasgow School of Art. During his lifetime East enjoyed considerable success and established an enviable reputation as an artist, becoming President of the Royal Society of British Artists, a Royal Academician, a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolors, one of the earliest members of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers, and finally in 1910 being honored with knighthood by King Edward VII. The Alfred East Art Gallery in Ketttering opened in 1913 in East’s birthplace of Kettering. East’s carefully composed landscapes reflect the inflence of the Barbizon School of Artists, in particular the work of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Charles-Francois Daubigny. East worked directly from nature in a manner which gives an open, airy, and often higly atmospheric feel to all of his works. In 1890 an exhibition of 104 of East’s paintings was held at the Fine Art Society in London. East published ‘The Art of Landscape Painting in Oil Colour’ in 1906.

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East's Sayanara (usually, 'sayonara', meaning 'goodbye') is the first of a small group of canvases in which the painter revisited his experiences of Japan. Known previously from a small watercolour, Etude d'apres 'Sayanara'.

In 1889 the forty-five year old painter had sailed to the Far East in the company of Arthur Lazenby Liberty, owner of the famous department store in Regent Street, and Charles Holme, later editor of The Studio. Unlike many other artist-travellers East was determined to visit rural Japan and paint the Japanese landscape, particularly around Lake Biwa and Mount Fuji. On his return, his small oil sketches, watercolours and cabinet pictures were shown to great acclaim at The Fine Art Society in March 1890.

Although he was keen to re-establish his reputation as a painter of the English landscape, East brought back a substantial horde of over 400 Japanese prints and artefacts, including a complete set of Hokusai's Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji (1823-1830). He was, with Liberty, to become a founding member of the Japan Society in 1891 and on several occasions addressed its members on the comparison between Oriental landscape traditions and those of the west. After a lapse of six years, contemplating his print collection and ruminating on his experiences, he painted Sayanara, the first of three exhibition-scale 'Japanese' canvases. This evocation of a procession of geishas recalls not only the lantern festival prints of the Ukiyoe school, but their equivalents in western art in the nocturnes of Whistler and his followers. Spielmann, sensing the charm of a scene of lighted lanterns 'held by characteristic little Japanese girls', described it as a 'striking study', one of a group of British works that showed an affinity with the French school in the Champ de Mars Salon, but avoided its excesses. 'GM' in The Studio, comparing this with East's work at the Royal Academy and the New Gallery concluded that it was 'a feast for the eye'. For the painter of still ponds, noble trees and English countryside calm, this reverie of animated figures under the majestic contour of Mount Fuji was a significant departure. East was never to return to the land of the rising sun.

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ALFRED EAST, 2 Spencer Street, Victoria Street, S.W., and 49 Belsize Park, London, N. W., landscape painter and etcher; associate of the Royal Academy, president of the Royal Society of British Artists; member of the Royal Society of Painter Etchers; Hon. associate of Royal Institute British Architects; associate Societe Nationale des Beaux Arts, France; Hon. member of the Neiji Bijutsu Kai, Japan; chevalier of the Crown of Italy; member of the Society des Peintre d'eau, France; Hon. member of the Societe Royal des Aquarellets de Beige; Hon. member Royal Academy, Stockholm; hors concours, Paris Salon; gold medals, Paris, London, Munich; first medals, Chicago International Exhibition for works in water color and oil; works in national and public galleries: "A Passing Storm," Musee de Luxemborg, Paris; "A Haunt of Ancient Peace," National Gallery, Buda Pest; "The Lambourne Valley," National Gallery of New South Wales; "Nene Valley, Northamptonshire," Permanent Municipal Gallery, Venice: "The Silent Somme" and "Autumn," Municipal Gallery of Manchester; "Gibraltar from Algeria," Permanent Gallery of the city of Liverpool; "Hayle from Lelant," The Birmingham Permanent Gallery; "The Golden Valley," in the Permanent Gallery of Leeds; "An Idyl of Spring," the Corporation Gallery of Preston; "Evening in the Cotswolds," city of Hull.
Exhibition of paintings by Alfred East of London
April 6th to 30th, 1910
Gramercy Park

[National Arts Club (New York, N.Y.)]

Sir Alfred East Dead
Head of British Artists' Society
Passes Away at Age of 74.
By Marconi Transatlantic Wireless Telegraph to the New York Times.
London, Sept. 28. -- Sir Alfred East, President of the Royal Society of British Artists, died to-day. Alfred East was born in Kettering on Dec. 515, 1849. He learned th rudiments of art while earning his living in a Glasgow counting house, but did not find his bent until he was twenty-five. He received his art education at the Government School of Art, Glasgow, and afterward at the Beaux-Arts, Paris, where he studied under Bouguereau and T. Fleury. He studied landscape at Barbizon, and in 1883 exhibited his first Academy picture, "A Dewy Morning." It found no purchasers, and was treasured for years in his studio at Belsize Park. He was knighted in 1910. In that year, while on a visit to Chicago, he expressed the opinion that "Americans are courageous in action, but cowards in judging art." He declared that they accepted the opinion of others, and that the United States must develop an art of its own. He received gold medals at London, Paris, Munich, and Barcelona. Some of his works are shown in the Carnegie Art Gallery, Pittsburgh; Art Institute, Chicago, and other American galleries. His works are also shown in the Luxembourg, Paris, and in the galleries of other European cities. He was a Cavalier of the Order of the Crown, Italy; honorable associate of the Royal Institute of British Artists, and honorable member of the Meiji Bijutsu Kai, Japan.

[Published: September 29, 1913, Copyright © The New York Times]

The death, in London, on September 28th, of Sir Alfred East is much to be lamented. He was a great landscape painter and he died in fulllness of his power. Born in Kettering in 1849 he gave almost his entire life to his art. He was a Royal Academician and President of the Royal Society of British Artists. In the National Galleries of France, Italy, Germany, England, and other countries he was represented.

In 1909 a collection of paintings by Sir Alfred East was shown first at the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, and then in other cities in the United States. Two years later Yale University conferred upon him an honorary degree. Sir Alfred East was a man of keenly artistic temperament and strong convictions. By his writings as well as by his paintings and etchings he made valuable contribution to the field of art.

Art and Progress; Vol. 5, No. 1, November, 1913; Art & Art History, Arts & Sciences VIII Collection; Coverage: 1909-1915 (Vols. 1-7)
Journal Description: Collection of 19th and early 20th century American art journals found in libraries of New York City museums.