Richard Ansdell

(Liverpool, 11 May 1815 - 20 April 1885, Kensington)

Animal painter, a native of Liverpool and baptised at St. Peter’s Church in that city. His grandfather had salt works in the neighbourhood of Northwich. He was educated at the Bluecoat school, Liverpool, and, although attracted by art in youth, did not devote himself to it with a view to making it his profession until he was twenty-one. While in Liverpool he studied animal life in the country-side. His first appearance in London was in 1840, when two of his pictures, "Grouse Shooting" and "Galloway Farm", were exhibited at the Royal Academy. There followed in 1842, an important historical picture, "The Death of Sir William Lambton"; but here, as in most of his pictures, the subject is not the main thing, and was selected for representation because the scene was on Marston Moor, and the agonies of a wounded horse could be well portrayed there. His paintings from this time forward were very numerous. His success made it possible for him to travel, and between 1857 and 1860 his subjects were found in Spain. His earlier paintings show traces of Landseer’s influence, and there are works of that period produced by Ansdell and Creswick together, the latter supplying the landscape, in which he excelled. His other collaborators were Mr. W. P. Frith, with whom he painted "The Keeper’s Daughter," and John Phillip, who helped with the Spanish pictures.

Ansdell was honoured no less than three times with the Haywood medal, a gift awarded to the best pictures shown at the exhibitions in Manchester. In 1855, he received a gold medal at the Great Exhibition in Paris, the pictures which won it being "The Wolf Slayer" and 'Taming the Drove." He was elected A.R.A, in 1861, and R.A. in 1870. He exhibited in London galleries, mostly at the Royal Academy, as many as 181 works. The average price of his pictures between 1861 and 1884 was as nearly as possible 750l. A view of "St. Michael’s Mount, Cornwall", was purchased by Baron Albert Grant, and realised, at the baron’s sale in April 1877, 1,410l. 10s.

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In the print room of the British Museum are a few indifferent etchings by Ansdell. Engravings after his works are numerous enough to prove that copies of his works are much in request.

He married in St. Peter’s Church, Liverpool, on 14 June 1841, Maria Romer, also of Liverpool. There were eleven children of the marriage, and six sons and two daughters survived the artist.

In his later years Ansdell lived at Lytham House, Kensington, whence he removed to Collingwood Tower, Farnborough where he died and was buried at Brookwood cemetery.

[Sanders’s Celebrities of the Century; Cyclopædia of Painters and Paintings, 1886; Painters and their Works, 1896; Dict. of British Artists, 1895; W. P. Frith’s Autobiography (1889); Times, 21, 22, 24 April 1885; Liverpool Daily Post, 21 April 1885; Art Journal, 1860.]

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Richard Ansdell RA (11 May 1815 – 20 April 1885) was an English oil painter of animals and genre scenes. He was also an engraver.

Ansdell was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, the son of Thomas Griffiths Ansdell, a freeman who worked at the port, and Anne Jackson. His father died young and Richard was educated at the Bluecoat school for orphans. He had a natural talent for art from an early age, and after leaving school worked for a portrait painter in Chatham in Kent, and also spent time as a sign painter in the Netherlands.

He first exhibited at the Liverpool Academy in 1835, becoming a student there the following year. His animal and rural subjects proved to be popular and he soon attracted wealthy patrons. His first exhibition at the Royal Academy, London, was in 1840, with two paintings called "Grouse shooting" and "A Galloway farm". This was followed, in 1841 by "The Earl of Sefton and party returning from hunting", in 1842 "The death of Sir William Lambton at the Battle of Marston Moor", in 1843 "The Death" and in 1844 "Mary Queen of Scots returning from the chase to Stirling Castle". He went on to exhibit pictures every year at the Academy until 1885 (149 canvases in all). In 1846 he exhibited his first picture, "A Drover's Halt" at the British Institution, London, and went on to show 30 canvases there.

In June 1841, he married Maria Romer - the couple went on to have 11 children. In 1847 the family left Liverpool to live in Kensington in London.

In 1850, Ansdell started collaborating on pictures with Thomas Creswick, who specialised in landscapes (e.g.:"The South Downs", "England's day in the country" etc.). He also worked with William Powell Frith ("The Keeper's daughter") and John Phillip, with whom he travelled to Spain in 1856 and painted a series of Spanish subjects - "The Water Carrier", "The Road to Seville", "The Spanish shepherd" etc. He returned to Spain alone the following year to paint more pictures there.

In 1855, Andsell was awarded a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition for his works, "The Wolf Slyer" and "Taming the Drove". He also won the "Heywood medal" three times for his work at the Manchester Royal Institution. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy (ARA) in 1861 and a Royal Academician (RA) in 1870.

During part of his career he kept a "summer house" at Lytham St Annes, in the borough of Fylde, where a district, Ansdell, is named after him. He is the only English artist to have been honoured in this way.

Ansdell died at "Collingwood Tower" near Frimley, Surrey in April 1885. He was buried at Brookwood Cemetery.

Ansdell's best known works include Stag at Bay (1846), The Combat (1847), and Battle of the Standard (1848) - depicting the capture of the French flag at Waterloo by Sergeant Ewart of the Scots Greys.

Ansdell's subject matter was compared to that of Edwin Landseer, though critical opinion was that, though popular, his works lacked the latter's emotional impact. His reputation was as a hardworking but occasionally over-proud artist; for instance, he received no royal commissions after refusing to paint Queen Victoria's dogs unless they were brought to his studio.

Many of his works are under the guardianship of Fylde Borough Council, having been donated to the former Lytham St Annes Corporation in the 1930s. A selection of these paintings is periodically exhibited at the Fylde Gallery above Booths supermarket in Lytham where The Herd Lassie is on long-term loan.



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