Anthony  Vandyke  Copley  Fielding

(22 November 1787 - 3 March 1855)

Commonly called Copley Fielding, English landscape painter, brother of Theodore Henry Adolphus Fielding. He was the son of Nathan Theodore Fielding, a portrait painter, named after van Dyck and John Singleton Copley. At an early age Fielding became a pupil of John Varley. He took to water-colour painting, and to this he confined himself almost exclusively. He was the best known and most prolific of the Fielding brothers and was highly proficient, particularly in watercolour. Copley first worked closely with his father, travelling with him to Liverpool in 1807, and then to Wales in 1808. Their works of 1804 were said to be indistinguishable.

In 1824, he won a gold medal at the Paris Salon alongside Richard Parkes Bonington and John Constable. Fielding often sent forty or fifty watercolors a year to the Royal Watercolour Society (RWS). He maintained a lifelong relationship with the Society, first exhibiting in 1810, acting as treasurer from 1813, secretary from 1815, and elected President of that body in 1831, occupying this position for the last 24 years of his life. His subjects were usually views of the countryside around London, but he also painted stormy seascapes and the Scottish Highlands. Fielding married Miss Susannah Grisborne in 1813, daughter of Zachanah Gisborne, and sister-in-law of his old master John Varley. From 1816, divided his time between Brighton and London. He made frequent sketching tours in the course of his life.

He also engaged largely in teaching the art and made ample profits. In his later years, he was drawing instructor to the influential critic John Ruskin in a series of lesson in 1835. He later moved to Park Crescent in Worthing and died in the town in March 1855.

Copley Fielding was a painter of much elegance, taste and accomplishment and has always been highly popular with purchasers, without reaching very high in originality of purpose or style: he painted in vast number all sorts of views (occasionally in oil-colour) including marine subjects in large proportion. His drawing of the Southern uplands received extravagant praise from Ruskin for the skill in which he rendered the swelling contours of the Downs. Specimens of his work from 1829 to 1850, can be seen in the water-colour gallery of the Victoria and Albert Museum and other major museums. Among the engraved specimens of his art is the Annual of British Landscape Scenery, published in 1839.

From Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 10 (11th ed.), Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911); Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia; en.Wikipedia;;

Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding was the second son of Nathan Theodore Fielding, a portrait painter, who resided near Halifax, in Yorkshire; he probably received his first instruction from his father, but he studied under John "Varley. He was one of the young artists who used to meet and work together at Dr. Munro's. in the Adelphi. In 1810, he began to exhibit at the Society of Painters in Water Colours, now the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours, and in 1811 to the Royal Academy, where he exhibited some 17 pictures in all; he worked principally for the Water Colour Society, and became a full member in 1813, Treasurer in 1817, Secretary in 1818, and President from 1831 until his death. For many years his contributions to the exhibition averaged between 40 and 50 works. In 1819, he sent no less than 46 frames containing 71 drawings; and in 1820, 43 frames containing 53 drawings. The public appreciation of his art, and a large and fashionable teaching connection, enabled him to make a considerable fortune, and in his later years to retire to Brighton. He died at Worthing, on the 3rd of March, 1855.

His best works are subjects from the Sussex Downs, sea pieces, and aerial effects; he painted some pictures of the lakes and mountains of Scotland, Wales, and the North of England, and some few Italian scenes, but these last were from the sketches of others, as he never went abroad. He occasionally painted in oil colours; one is at the South Kensington Museum, together with 18 of his water colour drawings.

A wide prospect of the Sussex Downs, embracing woodland, hill, and a long line of blue distance towards the sea, lit up by fleeting rays of sunshine, contrasted with dark shadows cast from the cloudy sky; the distinct rays of the sun fall on the Downs on the right, and a transparent veil of shadow covers the dark wood in the middle of the composition. In the distance on the left is a castle upon a hill, and smoke rises near the horizon; to the left is a little red-roofed cottage, with a pathway leading to it, on which a boy in brown with a blue waistcoat, and a girl in white with a red shawl, walk hand-in-hand; a rustic in white smock and red cap drives four cows "dowii the road in the foreground. On the right is a group of dark trees, throwing into relief the sunlit pasture.

Charles Kingsley alluded to this and similar works in his Prose Idylls, North Devon, "What! are Copley Fielding's South Down Landscapes incomplete without a half-starved seven-shillings-a-week labourer in the foreground." (No. 71. A View in Sussex. Signed, Copley Fielding, 1834). [as written]

Dictionary of National Biography; Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers,; Catalogue of Exhibitors, Algernon Graves; Descriptive and Historical Catalogue of the Pictures and Sculptures in the National Gallery of British Art, with Biographical Notices of the Deceased Artists, 4th Edit., 1899

Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding was born in 1787. He was one of four sons of Nathan Theodore Fielding, an artist of considerable local reputation, who resided near Halifax, and painted in oil with the careful finish of Denner, being much patronised by the gentry of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Copley, his second son, received his first education in Art from his father, who seems to have been more careful than most parents in instructing his children, since Theodore, Copley, Thales, and Newton, his four sons, all practised Art with success. Copley was a pupil of John Varley, and, with his master and fellow-pupils, was a constant visitor of Dr. Monro's, and there formed those friendships which connected his future with water-colour Art. He was elected Associate of the Water-Colour Society in 1810, a full Member in 1818 [contradiction in this date], and was President from 1881 till his death.

For many years his contributions to the Exhibitions of the Society averaged between forty and fifty. He was one of the most fashionable drawing-masters of his day, and was awarded a medal at the Paris Salon in 1824. His favourite subjects were lake and mountain scenery, storms at sea, and views of the Sussex Downs. In the latter he had no rival. He also painted in oil, and exhibited at the Royal Academy and the British Institution.

Ernest Chesneau, in his English School of Painting, writes thus: "Copley Fielding is, perhaps, the greatest artist, after Turner, for representations of breadth and atmosphere. He is unequalled in certain effects of mist, which are splendid in their mysterious expanse."

Ruskin, in The Art of England, says: "There is a singular character in the colouring of Fielding as he uses it to express the richness of beautiful vegetation; he makes the springs of it to look pearly, as if they were strewn with jewels. He is, of course, not absolutely right in this; to some extent it is a conventional exaggeration, and yet it has a basis of truth which excuses, if it does not justify, this expression of his pleasure, for no colours can possibly represent vividly enough the charm of radiance which you can see by looking closely at dew-sprinkled leaves and flowers."

Historical catalogue of the collection of water-colour drawings by deceased artists, Manchester Whitworth Institute, 1894; The Tate Gallery: (the National Gallery of British Art), Cassell & Company, Limited, 1908.

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