Francis   John   Wyburd

(London, 1826 - 1893)

Educated at Lille, France. On his return to England he was placed as a pupil with the late Thomas Fairland, a clever lithographic artist. In 1845, Wyburd received a silver medal from the Society of Arts for a drawing, and in 1848, he entered the schools of the Royal Academy, exhibiting for the first time at the Royal Academy the next year. Among his works may be mentioned:
"Beatrice" 1853
"Lalla Rookh"
"The Kiosk" (painted for the Glasgow Art Union)
"Amy Robsart and Janet Forster"
"The Convent Shrine" (British Institution 1862)
"Immortelles" (painted for the Duchess of Cambridge, exhiited Royal Academy 1862) and subsequently engraved)
"Christmas Time" 1863 (Royal Academy)
"The Offering" 1864 (2) and
"The Private View"
"The Church Door" 1865
"The Last Day in the Old Room" 1867
"The Confessional" 1868
"The Birthday Visit" 1869i
"The Harem" 1872
"Nadira" 1874
"Breakfast-Time" 1875
"Life in the Old Manor-House" 1876.

Artists of the Nineteenth Century and their Works, by Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton, 1879; Living Artist.

The Works of Francis John Wyburd

In these days of almost perpetual locomotion and of love of change, it is rare to find a man, and especially an artist, inhabiting the same dwelling in which he first saw the light fifty years ago: yet such has been the lot of Mr. Wyburd, who was born in Bryanston Street, London, in 1826, where he still lives, having never removed from the house as his abode.

He received his general education at Lille, in the north of France, and when he returned from school, having from a child showed talent for drawing, he was placed as a pupil with the late Thomas Fairland, a very clever lithographic artist. In 1845, Mr. Wyburd obtained a silver medal from the Society of Arts for a drawing, and three years afterwards he entered the schools of the Royal Academy as a student ; and this is all there is to relate of the Art-education of the painter, and of his life, apart from his works: a meagre statement, but as much, perhaps, as most artists have to make: and so, to employ an oft-used remark, we must look for the painter's history in his pictures.

In the earlier time of his practice Mr. Wyburd seems to have gone to the volumes of modern writers for some female figure as a subject for his canvas, and even many of his later pictures are of a similar description. He began to exhibit at the Royal Academy about 1849, but the first of his works of which we took any note was 'Beatrice,' a small study, showing the figure raising the veil from her face: "the conception is original," was our remark at the time, "and very minutely carried out;" it was in the Academy in 1853. "Lalla Rookh" was for some time a favourite poem with this artist, who, between the years 1854 and 1857, borrowed several subjects from the part known as "The Fire Worshippers" for example, under the. title of "The East," he illustrated the lines,
"Beautiful are the maids that glide
On summer eves through Yemen's dales".

The "little Persian slave who sang sweetly to the Vina, and who now and then lulled the Princess to sleep with the ancient ditties of her country," suggested a picture which the artist called simply "Lalla Rookh""The Kiosk" (painted for the Glasgow Art-Union, illustrates
'And brides as delicate and fair
As the white jasmine-flowers they wear,
Hath Yemen in her blissful clime".

Another of the same class is "Plinda"
"Upon a galliot's deck she lies,
     Beneath no rich pavilion shade".

The whole of these pictures from Tom Moore's luxurious descriptive conceptions are quite worthy of the poet's ideals.

In 1858, Mr. Wyburd sent to the Academy for the first time, so far as we remember, a group of two figures, 'Amy Robsart and Janet Forster' the countess has "playfully stretched herself" upon a pile of rich Moorish cushions in the withdrawing room, with her attendant behind engaged in arranging her mistress's hair. In both figures the extreme delicacy of the painting, especially in the faces, could scarcely be surpassed; while the taste and disposition of the furniture in the room are fully in keeping with the manner in which its occupants are presented. In that year the artist and his friend, Mr. George E. Hering, the landscape painter, went on a sketching expedition to the north of Italy and the Tyrol, which resulted in several pictures, one of which, 'The Convent Shrine,' was exhibited at the British Institution in 1862, and bore the following couplet from Longfellow:
"And the hymn of the nuns was heard the while,
Sung low in the deep mysterious aisle."

There are three figures in the composition; one a nun, who has fallen on her knees on hearing the distant chant of her sisters in the convent; the others are two females of the peasant class; all are assembled under what appears to be the exterior of a chalet by the side of a lake, across which is a range of mountains, painted, as is also the sky, of a pure crystal green colour: the effect is singular as regards the sky, but doubtless the artist had authority for what he did. Another of these Italian or Tyrolean pictures is 'The Home of the Mountaineer,' exhibited at the British Institution in 1859: it represents a young mother seated at the casement window of a cottage, and nursing her infant child, while watching for the return of her husband. The work is remarkable for the feeling and truth shown in the management of the light, which is chiefly obtained by the suppression of colour. We have heard that the Prince Consort was very desirous of possessing this work, and would have purchased it, had it not been previously disposed of.

'Immortelles,' another of the examples we have engraved, was painted for H.R.H. the Duchess of Cambridge, and was exhibited at the Academy in 1862. The composition is very simple, -- a young girl engaged in weaving wreaths of flowers in memory of
"Friends whom she loved so long, and sees no more,
Loved and still loves; not lost, but gone before,"
the motto attached to the picture when it was exhibited. The same subject, with the female in a different costume, was subsequently painted for the Marquis of Lansdowne.

Referring to our Royal Academy catalogue of 1863, we find a commendatory note appended to Mr. Wyburd's picture of 'Christmas Time;' we however pass over it now to refer to two works by him exhibited at the British Institution in 1864, which were thus spoken of at the time in the pages of this Journal; "'Mr. F. Wyburd's two pictures, 'The Offering' and 'The Private View,' have deservedly won admiration. In the first, a peasant is praying by a side-altar of a church; a chaplet of flowers, which she has brought as an offering at the shrine, lies before her on the pavement; a triptych, whereon a painting of the Annunciation, after the manner of Cimabue, may be distinguished, hangs on the chapel wall behind. The sentiment of Mr. Wyburd's picture is exquisite. A pretty idea he has expressed with refined simplicity. In his second work, 'The Private View,' he is no less felicitous. A happy thought has here struck him. His first picture, 'The Offering,' is in this second work introduced on an easel, and forms the subject of 'The Private View.' The artist, we see, has but just left his studio; his palette, brushes, and maulstick are for the moment laid aside upon the chair. These constitute the still life of the picture; the living tenants of the scene are a lady and the baby which she carries in her arms, who are both looking at the canvas on which the painter has been at work. We watch them as they take their 'private view,' which seems duly to delight them. The treatment and execution of this picture within a picture are delicate and dexterous." At the Royal Academy in the same year Mr. Wyburd exhibited 'Home in Acadie,' as described by Longfellow, when he speaks of matrons and maidens with their distaffs seated on the summer evenings and "spinning the golden flax." The subject is treated poetically and with refinement, but is somewhat lacking in vigour.

Another picture, to which in our catalogue a "good mark" is attached, is 'The Last Day in the Old Room,' sent to the Academy in 1867. We have no space for any detailed account of it, and proceed to point out a few out of his many subsequent works worthy of mention; such, for example, as 'The Birthday Visit,' exhibited at the Academy in 1869, with ' Daisy,' a pretty little child,
"A rocker of dolls with staring eyes
   That a thought of sleep disdam."

'Chrystallinus' is the title given to a picture sent to the Academy in 1871, and representing a Greek girl holding a glass globe; 'The Harem,' a bevy of captivating odalisques, painted with extreme care and finish, exhibited in the year immediately following; 'Breakfast-time,' his picture of 1875, and 'The Life of the Old Manor House,' his solitary contribution last year to the Academy, quite maintain the painter's reputation. The last of these we were desirous of engraving among our examples, but there being some difficulty in the way of obtaining the work, we have substituted for it an engraving of an elegant little composition that hung in the Winter Exhibition of the Society of British Artists in 1875, "Esther', it is the property of Mr. George Lunt, of Liverpool, and represents the Hebrew maiden who superseded Queen Vashti in the affection of Ahasuerus, attiring herself for her first introduction to her future husband, who reigned from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces." This is among Mr. Wyburd's most pleasing single figures: several pictures of this class, such as 'Undine,' 'Titania,' 'Imogen,' and others, were, we have heard him say, suggested by the caves round the Isle of Arran, visited when staying in Scotland with his brother-artist, Mr. George E. Hering.

The characteristics of Mr. Wyburd's art are, principally, a perfect realisation of female beauty, an attractive manner in setting out his figures, and a refinement of finish which is sometimes carried almost to excess: his pictures would often gain value and effect by more robust and vigorous handling.

The Art Journal, (1875-1887), Volume 3.) "The Works of Francis John Wyburd" (January 1, 1877), James Dafforne.

View painter's work: Francis John Wyburd (1826-1893) [new window view]

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