John Evan Hodgson

(1 March 1831 - 19 June 1895)

This artist was born in London, but at an early age was taken to Russia, where his father was engaged in mercantile pursuits, and in that country he passed the first few years of his life. He was sent over for a short time to Rugby, but then returned to Russia, and finally settled in England when twenty-two years of age. It is curious, however, that there is no reminiscence of the life in Russia to be seen in his paintings, and that this early career had little or no effect upon the work of his later years.

He was educated at the Royal Academy Schools, and exhibited his first picture at Burlington House in 1857, calling it 'The Arrest of the Poacher.' From that time down to 1868 he sent in works which depicted historical or domestic scenes:
'Canvassing for a Vote,' sent in 1858,
'The Patriot's Wife,' 1859,
'Margaret Roper in Holbein's Studio,' 1860,
'The Return of Drake from Cadiz,' 1862, and
'The First Sight of the Armada,' in 1863.

In 1868 he went to Africa, journeying in Tunis, visiting Tangier, and spending some time both in Algiers and Morocco, and from that time his works were almost exclusively Eastern in character, and generally were connected with that part of the continent of Africa which so greatly appealed to him. Some of his chief works were: 'An Arab Story-teller,' which appeared in 1870,
'The Basha's Black Guards' in 1871,
'An Arab Patriarch' in 1872,
'Army Reorganization in Morocco' in 1873,
'A Tunisian Bird-seller' in 1873,
'Returning the Salute' in 1875,
'A Barber's Shop in Tunis ' in 1876,
'Pampered Menials,' 'An Eastern Question,' 'The Armourer's Shop,' and 'Needy Knife-grinders' after that date.

He became Associate of the Royal Academy in 1873, and Academician in 1879, and later on was appointed to the office of Librarian of the Academy. It was in this latter position that he attained some considerable reputation, as his literary abilities were of a high order, and the articles which he contributed to various Art periodicals in conjunction, sometimes, with the Secretary of the Academy, Mr. Eaton, and in which he dealt with the early history of the Royal Academy and the career of its most notable members, possessed more than a passing interest, and deserved to have been reissued in permanent form. He entered with great zest into the work of his new position, was ever ready to assist students, to make good use of the material which was placed under his care, and will be remembered with much gratitude for his help to all writers who sought his assistance, and the opportunities of research in the library.

He was a profound student of Ruskin, and would never hear the master spoken against, holding tenaciously to the opinion that despite all his errors and grave exaggerations, there had been no man who had exercised so wise and important an influence on the art of England as Ruskin. His pictures were not distinguished by any special dramatic power, poetic imagination, or pleasing humour, but they were honest, conscientious, and earnest, sound in drawing, and pleasing in colour. Their monotony was against them, and there was a commonplace and almost tame treatment of subject which prevented their ever attaining high position. Hodgson will be remembered more by his literary work than he will by his later pictures of Eastern life.

Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, 1876 - Reprinted, 1894, 1899

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JOHN EVAN HODGSON, (1831-1895), painter, the elder son of John Hodgson, a member of an influential Newcastle family and a Russia merchant, was born in London on 1 March 1831. At the age of four he was taken to St. Petersburg, but was sent to England eight years later for his education. He entered Rugby school in February 1846, and on leaving school returned to St. Petersburg and entered his father's counting-house. The study of the old masters in the Hermitage collection and of Ruskin's ' Modern Painters' induced him to abandon commerce for an artist's career. In 1853 he came to London and entered as a student at the Royal Academy. He exhibited his first picture, 'The Notice of Ejectment,' in 185S. This was followed by other scenes of domestic life, such as 'The Arrest' (1857), 'Elector and Candidate' (1858), and 'The German Patriot's Wife ' (1859). A little later he took to historical subjects, and exhibited 'Sir Thomas More and his Daughters in Holbein's Studio' (1861), 'The Return of Drake from Cadiz, 1587' (1862), 'The First Sight of the Armada' (1863), 'Queen Elizabeth at Purfleet' (1864), 'Taking Home the Bride, 1612' (1865), 'A Jew's Daughter accused of Witchcraft in the Middle Ages' (1866), 'Evensong' (1867), 'On the Downs in the Days of the Caesars,' and two domestic subjects (1868).

Since 1859 Hodgson had been living at 5 Hill Road, Abbey Road, and he became a member of the group known a little later as 'the St. John's Wood set,' of which Philip Calderon [q. v. Suppl.] was the leader. A journey to the north of Africa in 1868 led to a change of subjects, and the first of his oriental pictures, 'An Arab Storyteller,' was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1869. This was followed by a long series of pictures of life in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunis, such as 'An Arab Patriarch' (1871), 'The Snake Charmer' (1872), 'A Tunisian Bird-seller' (1873), 'The Temple of Diana at Zaghouan' (1876), 'An Eastern Question' and 'The Pasha' (1878), 'Gehazi' and 'The French Naturalist in Algiers' (1879).

Hodgson was elected an associate of the Royal Academy on 28 Jan. 1873, and an academician on 18 Dec. 1879. About this time he painted marine subjects, such as Homeward Bound' (1880), 'Bound for the Black Sea' and 'A Shipwrecked Sailor waiting for a Sail,' his diploma work, exhibited in 1881. He was more versatile in his later years, when he exhibited, among other works, 'Painter and Critic,' 'Hobbema's Country,' and 'In the Low Countries' (1882), Robert Burns at the Plough' (1887), and landscapes such as Rural England' and Coleshill Common.' He exhibited, in all, ninety pictures at the Royal Academy and about half that number at other galleries.

Hodgson, who was a good scholar and linguist, was appointed librarian to the Royal Academy in 1882 in succession to Solomon Alexander Hart [q.v.], and professor of painting later in the same year in succession to Edward Armitage [q. v. Suppl.] He discharged the duties of both offices with zeal and efficiency during the remainder of his life, and was also of much service in organising the winter exhibitions of old masters. He contributed, jointly with Mr. Frederick Eaton, a series of articles on the history of the Academy in the eighteenth century to the Art Journal in 1889. He also published Academy Lectures in 1884, and Fifty Years of British Art on the occasion of the Manchester exhibition in 1887. He was a contributor to the Architect and other periodicals and journals.

Hodgson died on 19 June 1895 at The Larches, Coleshill, near Amersham, Buckinghamshire, where he had resided for about ten years.

[The dictionary of national biography: founded in 1882 by George Smith; Men of the Time; Times, 22 June 1895; Athenaeum, 29 June 1885; Illustrated London News, 29 June 1895; Newcastle Chronicle, 24 June 1895; Black and White, 29 June 1895 (portrait).]

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