Art And The Havell Family

Havell family (per. c.1775–1934), artists and publishers, came to prominence with Luke Havell (d. 1810) and Daniel Havell (d. 1825/6). The exact relationship of these two men, who represent the two branches of the Havell family, remains unclear but it is thought that they were either brothers or cousins. They came from an ancient but impoverished Reading family and it was not until the artistic talents of the farmhand Luke Havell were brought to the attention of the local squire that he was apprenticed to a local signwriter named Cole. Soon afterwards he was appointed drawing-master at Reading School and set up a modest print shop, also in Reading. In 1778 he married Charlotte Phillips (d. 1825) and they had fourteen children including: Edmund Havell senior (1785–1864) who took over his father's business and succeeded to his post at Reading School. With his wife, Maria Binfield, Edmund had three sons:
Edmund Havell junior (1819–1894), Charles Richard Havell (1827–1892), and
George Havell (d. 1840), who all became practising artists and printmakers specializing in landscape and topography. Of these three, Edmund set his sights much wider than his siblings and after training under Benjamin Robert Haydon, he regularly exhibited paintings in London and also visited the USA, where he exhibited work in Philadelphia.

Among their grandfather Luke's other artistic offspring were
Frederick James Havell (1801–1840/41), who worked in line engraving and mezzotint, and his much more successful older brother
William Havell (1782–1857), the genre and landscape painter, who was born in Reading on 9 February 1782. William Havell earned a reputation for his sensitive lakeside views in the manner of J. M. W. Turner. The best known of these were, undoubtedly, his designs for Twelve Picturesque Views of the River Thames, (1812), a series of coloured aquatint plates engraved and published by his uncle Daniel and his cousin Robert Havell senior (1769–1832), who was born in Reading on 29 December 1769. This was the first collaborative work between the two branches of the Havell family.


The Havell family of Reading, Berkshire, England included a number of notable engravers, etchers and painters, as well as writers, publishers, educators, and musicians. In particular, members of this family were among the foremost practitioners of aquatint; and had a long association with Indian art and culture. They are the English descendants of the aristocratic Hauteville family of Normandy.


The family first came to notice through the brothers Luke Havell (drawing master, 1752?–1810) and Robert Havell the Elder (engraver and publisher, 1769–1832); along with their nephew Daniel Havell (engraver, 1785?–1822).


Luke Havell, born 1752, was lifted from a future life as a farmhand when a local squire recognised his talents and apprenticed him to a signwriter named Ayliffe Cole, from 1762 to 1764. He was appointed drawing-master at Reading Grammar School, where he served under the headmastership of Richard Valpy, and also had a small print shop in the town. He married Charlotte Phillips in 1778, and together they had fourteen children, including the painter William Havell (1782–1857), and Edmund Havell (1785–1864) who took on the print shop, and succeeded his father as drawing master at the school.


Luke Havell: drawing master and painter. Born Reading; married Charlotte Phillips 1778; died 1810 Reading.
The following list of Luke Havell's descendants is incomplete; covering only those referenced in published sources.

-- William Havell: landscape painter in watercolours and oils; frequently exhibited at the Royal Academy; traveled and painted in China, India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and Italy. Born 1782 Reading; died 1857 Kensington.

-- Edmund Havell: drawing master and painter; exhibited at the Royal Academy. Born 1785 Reading; married Maria Binfield; died 1864.

-- Edmund Havell, Junior: genre and portrait painter, and lithographer; frequently exhibited at the Royal Academy. Queen Victoria's official portraitist. Came to America and exhibited at the Centennial in Philadelphia. Born 1819 Reading; died 1899 London.

-- Alfred Charles Havell: painter of horses and figurative subjects; exhibited at the Royal Academy. Born 1855 Chelsea; married Mary Marpole Lewis 1878; died 1928.

-- Susannah Maria Havell: musician and music teacher, working with her aunt the minor composer Hannah Rampton Binfield. Born 1822 Reading.

--Charles Richard(s) Havell: landscape painter, exhibited at the Royal Academy. Born 1828 Reading; married Charlotte Amelia Lord (granddaughter of Thomas Lord) 1855; died 1892 Caversham.

-- Ernest Binfield Havell: art writer and educator, especially in Indian art; superintendent of Government Art Schools at Madras (now Chennai) and Calcutta (now Kolkata). With Abanindranath Tagore, he established the Bengal school of art. Born 1861 Reading; died 1934 Oxford.

-- Herbert Lord Havell: classicist and writer; his posthumously published Republican Rome (1914) is still in print. Born 1863 Reading; died 1913 Oxford.

-- Charles Havell: painter and drawing master at the Reading School. Born 1792 Reading; married Thirza Cheverton 1824.

-- Henry Havell: heraldic painter; "decorator to the King" (according to Bryan). Born 1796 Reading; married Elizabeth Sims 1821; emigrated to the United States 1829.

-- George Havell: painter; traveled and painted in India. Born 1799 Reading; married Mary Ann Hale 1825; died 1839? India.

-- Frederick James Havell (1801–1840)
Frederick James Havell: steel engraver in line and mezzotint and made experiments in photography. Born 1801 Reading.
F. John (James?) Havell, an engraver, was bom, and practised, in London. He died in 1840, having for some years lost his reason.Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, 1876 - Reprinted, 1894, 1899

Charles Cedric Havell. Grandson of Charles Richard Havell. His father, Charles G. Havell was a doctor at Felixstowe. His mother Cicely Ridpath was a model for Louise Jopling, the artist. Charles Cedric went to Rugby School, Warwickshire and then Pembroke College, Cambridge University. While at Rugby he enthusiastically participated in the Officer Training Corps. In November 1914 he joined the Territorial Army and served as an Officer in the Suffolk Regiment achieving the rank of Captain. In 1915 he was awarded the Military Cross for the brave command of a trench mortar position under extreme conditions. After the war he joined the Imperial Tobacco Company where he eventually became a director. Charles Havell also sat on a judicial panel which heard cases concerning commercial practice.

William Havell, a water-colour landscape painter, was bom at Reading in 1782. He was not allowed to follow art without some opposition on the part of his father, who was a drawing-master; but in the year 1804 he became one of the original members of the Water-Colour Society, and he also occasionally painted in oil, exhibiting his works in that medium at the Royal Academy. In 1816 he accompanied Lord Amherst's mission to China, and subsequently went to India, where he stayed some years, and made some money. He returned to England in 1825, and, after a visit to Italy, devoted himself to oil painting. But his later years were clouded with anxiety and reverses; his art was no longer successful, and he lost his savings, finally becoming a pensioner on the Turner Fund of the Royal Academy. He died at Kensington in 1857. Havell occupies a prominent place amongst the founders of the English water-colour school ; the excellence of his colour and his mode of treatment fully entitling him to that position. At the South Kensington Museum there are the following water-colour drawings by him:
View of Hastings. 1815.
Kilgerrau Castle, Pembrokeshire.


Robert Havell, Sr. (29 December 1769 - 21 November 1832) was the proprietor of a printing and engraving shop, with an ancillary business in natural history artifacts, in the Marylebone district of London, in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Robert was the brother of Luke Havell, and named as such in Luke's will; another brother, William, a butcher, was buried in Reading in 1832. In February 1793 Robert married Lydia Miller Phillips at St Sepulchre church in London; their eldest son Robert was born in Reading in December the same year.


By 1801 Havell was established at 3 Chapel Street, off Tottenham Court Road, in London, giving his occupation as "artist". The business, known from 1818 to 1825 as Havell and Son, became well known for its expertise in aquatint engraving and colouring.


In 1824, following the marriage of his son, Robert moved the business to 79 Newman Street, where John James Audubon approached him in 1827 to engrave a portfolio of 240 drawings he had brought with him from America. Recognizing that without the help of another expert engraver he would not be able to take on a work of this magnitude, Robert Havell, Sr., contacted his son, Robert Havell, Jr., who had quarreled with his father and left London in an attempt to launch an independent artistic career. Robert Havell, Jr. consented to reestablish the partnership with his father and agreed to engrave the plates of Audubon's drawings, with Robert, Sr., supervising their printing and colouring. The collaboration between father and son continued in this way until Robert Havell, Sr.'s retirement in 1828. Robert died in 1832, and was buried at the Old St. Pancras Church graveyard in London.

According to Audubon the Naturalist, the image is "from an advertising folder issued by Robert Havell about 1834, from the only copy known to exist, in the possession of Mr Ruthven Deane. It is a strip of heavy paper, 18 by 3¾ inches in size, and folded twice, the folded size being 4½ by 3¾ inches. One side bears four panels engraved by Robert Havell... the reverse has the printed matter reproduced on pages 386 and 387". Author Robert Havell, Jr. (1793-1878). The print being examined at one of the tables is Audubon's plate of the cock turkey.


Robert Havell, Jr. (25 November 1793-11 November 1878) was the principal engraver of Audubon's Birds of America, perhaps the most significant natural history publication of all time. His aquatint engraving of all but the first ten plates of John James Audubon's Birds of America is now recognized as a significant artistic achievement in its own right and an essential component of the success of Birds of America. He and Audubon became close friends and associates during their lengthy collaboration. In 1839 Havell went to America at the invitation of Audubon, first residing in Brooklyn. He settled in Ossining on the Hudson River and later moved to Tarrytown, New York, living there from 1857 through his remaining years.

Although Havell continued to work in aquatint and engraving (primarily city panoramas), he devoted most of his attention to painting the countryside of the Hudson River valley. He traveled frequently in a homemade horse-drawn trailer, sketching and taking notes and translating his sketches into larger oils. Robert Havell, Jr., is considered a member of the Hudson River School of American painters. He died in 1878 and is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown.


Robert Havell, (fl. 1800–1840), painter, engraver, and publisher, was son of Daniel Havell, who appears to have been a brother of Luke Havell, the father of William Havell [q. v.], the water-colour painter. Daniel Havell published in 1826 Historical and Descriptive Accounts of the Theatres of London, with views drawn and engraved by himself. Robert Havell, who worked jointly with his father for some time, set up for himself an establishment in Oxford Street, opposite the Pantheon, called the Zoological Gallery, where, besides the publication of works of art, an agency was formed for the sale of specimens, and other objects connected with natural history. In 1812 Daniel and Robert Havell published a series of Picturesque Views on the River Thames, engraved by them in aquatint from drawings by W. Havell. These were the first of a series of aquatint engravings published by the Havells which attained a well-earned reputation. They kept a large staff of good artists working on them. Among the more important publications were Audubon's Birds of America, Daniell's Views in India, Dodswell's Views in Greece, J. Baillie Fraser's Views in the Himala Mountains, and Salt's Views in Africa. In 1828 the partnership of Havell and his son Robert (see below) was dissolved and their stock dispersed.


Robert Havell, the younger (fl. 1820–1850), painter, engraver, and publisher, was a fair landscape-painter, and, after the dissolution of his partnership with his father, he went with his wife and daughter to America, where he settled, and continued to pursue his career as a landscape-painter with some success.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; sale catalogue, 27 May 1828; publications by Havell & Son; Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 25, by Lionel Henry Cust

Daniel and Robert Havell, were English engravers in the early part of the 19th century. They produced conjointly, in 1812, Picturesque Views on the Thames. Robert engraved also Views in India (1837), and Daniel the plates for an Account of the Theatres of London (1826).


Daniel Havell
In older texts (and in the current Oxford Dictionary of National Biography), Daniel Havell is often claimed as the father of Robert (and sometimes of Luke as well); but more recent references generally place him as born in 1785, the son of Luke's brother Thomas, also a painter, who was born in 1762. Daniel moved to London, and set up in partnership as an aquatint engraver with Robert Havell. Together they published aquatints of Twenty Four Views Taken in St. Helena (1809–10) after pictures by Henry Salt, and Twelve Picturesque Views of the River Thames (1812) from watercolours by William Havell. But the partnership did not last, and soon Daniel was working independently, including plates for Rudolph Ackermann's History of Cambridge (1815) and Ackermann's history of various Public Schools including Eton, Winchester and Rugby (1816), as well as a celebrated view of St Paul's Cathedral (1818) and various other London landmarks for Ackermann's Repository of Arts. Other subjects included topographical views of Devon, and of North Wales; and views of naval engagements. Havell's final work was for E.W. Brayley's Historical and descriptive accounts of the theatres of London (1826) "illustrated with a view of each theatre, elegantly coloured, drawn and engraved by the late Daniel Havell."


The Daniel Havell who was the son of Thomas Havell was baptised on 30 November 1786, at St Mary's, Reading; married Maria Wilmot on 5 June 1813 at St James's in Paddington; and was buried on 19 May 1822 at Kingston upon Thames, his occupation given as "artist".

Although born in Reading, Daniel Havell moved to London, where he worked for publishers such as Rudolph Ackermann who specialized in aquatint. His first commercial venture with his son Robert Havell senior was on Henry Salt's Twenty Four Views Taken in St. Helena, (1809–10); however, this partnership was short-lived and in 1816 Daniel was working independently at 5 Charles Street, Covent Garden. His last series of aquatints were commissioned for Edward Wedlake Brayley's Historical and Descriptive Accounts of the Theatres of London, (1827), which appeared after he died in 1825 or 1826.

After severing business relations with his father Daniel, Robert Havell senior set up at 79 Newman Street in Fitzrovia, London. With his wife, Lydia Miller Phillips, he had a son, Robert Havell junior (1793–1878), a printmaker and painter, who was born in Reading on 25 November 1793. The firm of R. Havell & Son produced lavish suites of aquatints; the first was A Series of Picturesque Views of Noblemen's & Gentlemen's Seats, (1814–23), followed by a variety of projects such as a Series of Views of the Public Buildings & Bridges in London, (1821–2) or Views in the Himala Mountains, (1820), after the designs of the traveller J. B. Fraser.

The Havells' most famous enterprise commenced in 1827 when, following a failed relationship with William Lizars of Edinburgh, the celebrated American ornithologist John James Audubon commissioned a series of plates to illustrate his Birds of America, (4 vols., 1827–39). Such was the magnitude of this project that the Havells had to employ fifty new staff and move to larger premises at 77 Oxford Street which they proudly named the Zoological Galleries, as a reference to their new-found artistic speciality. On 21 November 1832, the year after this expansion, Robert Havell senior died and was buried at St Pancras, London. From this time Robert junior was completely responsible for the production of Audubon's 435 ornithological plates, which are noted for their skill, accuracy, and subtle colour tones.

During this period Robert Havell, Junior established a firm friendship with Audubon and, following the untimely deaths of his two young sons in 1829 and 1838, Robert and his wife Amelia Jane Edington (d. 1878), whom he had married in 1824, decided to emigrate to America. On their arrival in 1839 they stayed with Audubon in New York and Havell's first American publication was a Panoramic View of New York, (1840). Although he continued as an aquatint engraver, during the following few years Havell began to focus on oil painting and after moving to Tarrytown, in upstate New York in 1857, he became a leading member of the Hudson River school, exhibiting over seventy-five canvases of American landscapes. He died on 11 November 1878 and it is fitting that he was buried in Sleepy Hollow cemetery, overlooking the Hudson which he loved so much.

The last member of the Havell family to come to prominence in the art world was Ernest Binfield Havell (1861–1934), teacher of art and specialist in Indian art who was born in Reading and was a great-nephew of William Havell. After training at the South Kensington School of Art and studying in Italy and Paris in the early 1880s, he left Europe to teach art in India. In 1884 he was appointed superintendent of the Madras School of Industrial Arts and in 1896 moved to the Calcutta School of Art. During the next forty years he published sixteen polemical studies on the history and state of Indian art and craft and was an ardent supporter of the first Indian nationalist art movement. He died in Oxford on 30 December 1934, when the Havell family's prominence in the art world came to an end. Contributed by: © Copyright, Lucy Peltz


J. R. Abbey, Scenery of Great Britain and Ireland in aquatint and lithography, 1770–1860 (1952); repr. (1972)
Redgrave, Artists
R. Hyde, ‘Robert Havell junior: artist and acquatinter’, Maps and prints: aspects of the English book trade, ed. R. Myers and M. Harris (1984), 81–108 DAB
F. Owen, ‘The life and work of William Havell’, in F. Owen, William Havell, 1782–1857: paintings, watercolours, drawings and prints (1981), esp. 7–18 [exhibition catalogue, London, Reading, and Kendal, 24 Nov 1981-10 April 1982]
E. J. Stanford, Nineteenth century painters and engravers: the Havell family, (1973)
[exhibition catalogue, Reading Museum and Art Gallery, 10 Feb-17 Mar 1973]
E. Stanford, William Havell, 1782–1857, (1970), [exhibition catalogue, Reading Museum and Art Gallery, 20 Feb, 21 Mar 1970]
J. Turner, ed., The dictionary of art, 34 vols., (1996)
G. A. Williams, ‘Robert Havell, engraver of Audubon's The birds of America’, Print Collectors' Quarterly, 6 (1916).
Graves, RA exhibitors
Graves, Soc. Artists
Bénézit, Dict., 3rd edn
Thieme & Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon
E. B. Havell, The basis for artistic and industrial revival in India (1912); repr. (New Delhi, 1986)
The Times (7 Nov 1883), 6
The Times (31 Oct 1904), 4
The Times (1 Jan 1935)
P. Mitter, Much maligned monsters: history of European reactions to Indian art, (1977).



Reading Museum Service, ‘A reminiscence of Sobury Farm on the banks of the Thames’ (1857), MS in sketchbook [William Havell].


W. Havell, self-portrait, oils, 1830, V&A
A. J. Havell, watercolour, c.1845 (Robert Havell junior)
Rockwood, photograph, 1851 (Robert Havell junior)
C. L. Elliot, oils (Robert Havell junior), Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia
© Copyright Ownership: Oxford University Press 2004–14: All rights reserved: see legal notice Oxford University Press
Lucy Peltz, ‘Havell family (per. c.1775–1934)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 11 May 2014]
Havell family (c.1775–1934): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/65039
Luke Havell (d. 1810): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/67015
Daniel Havell (d. 1825/6): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/67016
Robert Havell senior (1769–1832): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/12623
Robert Havell junior (1793–1878): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/12624



  1. Charles Lane, (1978), Sporting Aquatints and their Engravers: 1775–1820.
  2. Leigh-on-Sea, F. Lewis.
  3. Lucy Peltz, (2004), "Havell family", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  4. Will of Luke Havell, transcription on a website of John K. Schlosser.
  5. Leaves from Robert Havell Sr.'s family bible; published in George F. Tudor Sherwood, (1907).
  6. The Pedigree Register, vol 1. London: Society of Genealogists; William Havell, buried 21 Dec 1832, St Lawrence, Reading.
  7. Parish record indexes, at
  8. Notice of dissolution of partnership, London Gazette, No. 18482, (27 June 1828).
  9. Prideaux, (1909).
10. Williams, (1916).
11. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (2004).
12. Benezit Dictionary of Artists, (2006); has Daniel and Robert as brothers.
13. The Grove Dictionary of Art, (1999/2006), hedges, writing that "According to their descendants, Robert was undeniably Daniel’s son, though there is evidence to suggest that he may have been his uncle."
14. Benezit Dictionary of Artists. Oxford University Press, 2010.
15. Bryan, Michael, (1926–34), (1903–04).
16. Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers.
17. Bell.
18. Turner, Jane (editor), (1996), The Dictionary Of Art, Grove.
19. Mallalieu, H. L., (1986). The Dictionary of British Watercolour Artists up to 1920.
20. Antique Collectors' Club.
21. Wood, Christopher, (1995), Victorian Painters.
22. Havell, Ernest Binfield, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
23. Hunnisett, Basil, (1980), A Dictionary of British Steel Engravers. 24. F. Lewis.
25. Williams, George Alfred, (1916).
26. "Robert Havell, Junior, Engraver of Audubon's The Birds of America".
27. The Print-Collector's Quarterly, VI (2).
28. Goddu, Joseph, (Nov 2002), "The making of Audubon's The Birds of America".