Tuesday, July 29, 2014

William Mulready

The Sonnet
oil on canvas
36 x 31 cm
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

William Mulready (1786-1863) is regarded as one of the most outstanding native Irish artists of the nineteenth century. He is best known for his scenes of rural life and anecdotal genre. He was greatly admired on the Continent, being awarded the Legion d'honneur after exhibiting at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, in 1855.

He was born in Ennis, County Clare, into a poor family of leather-breeches maker who emigrated to London when he was six. He remained sensitive about his humble origins and did his best to conceal his Irishness for the rest of his life. After studying drawing from sculpture, in 1800, he attended the Royal Academy schools in London with great success, winning the silver palette of the Society of Arts in 1802. His early pictures were mostly landscape, close in style to those of Constable. In 1808 he began to gain a reputation for his still-life and landscape with cottages, and in 1816 he was elected a member of the Royal Academy being only 31 years of age.

He was slow, careful and meticulous in his approach to art and often made many preparatory sketches before committing himself to a final canvas. It is estimated that his output rarely exceeded more than two or three pictures a year. He is also noted for his academic studies, his illustrations for books.