Valentine Cameron Prinsep
British, 1838 - 1904
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Born in Calcutta, the son of an Indian civil servant who was able to afford a house in Holland Park, one of the most fashionable areas of London, and to send his son to Haileybury, Valetine Prinsep was also fortunate to have as his teacher, George Frederick Watts, an historical and portrait painter, now regarded as one of the foremost of the Victorian artists.
Watts, who seems to have been a permanent guest in the Prinseps' home - a meeting place for all the major artists, poets and writers of the day - eventually suggested that Valentine should go to Paris to complete his art education under Gleyre, who was considered by English students to be the best art teacher in France.
Prinsep returned to England and exhibited a hundred pictures at the Royal Academy from 1862 and 1904. A versatile artist and a very wealthy one after his marriage to the well-connected Florence Leyland, he painted historical subjects and portraits. He also tried to paint classical and biblical subjects, but the results were dull and no match for the more inspired flights of imagination to be seen in the works of the more famous trio of classical painters, Alma-Tadema, Leighton and Poynter.
In 1876 Prinsep was commissioned by the Indian government to paint the durbar that was held to proclaim Queen Victoria the Empress of India. The result was a gigantic canvas, At the Golden Gate.
Prinsep died in November 1904. The obituary below comes from The Art Journal, 1905.
from The Art Journal, 1905 (Passing Notes, pp 33-34).
The death, on November 11th, of Mr. Valentine Cameron Prinsep, R.A., was no less unexpected than deeply deplored by hundreds who knew and respected him. Born in India – on February 14th – in the year 1838, he first exhibited at the Academy in 1862, was made an Associate in 1879, an Academician in 1894, and in 1900 became Professor of Painting; his predecessor and successor being respectively Professor von Herkomer and Mr. Clausen. Though he himself made no claims to greatness, Mr. Prinsep knew all the eminent British artists of his time, onward from Mulready – several of them intimately. In the eager days when, at Oxford, the Union was being decorated by those not yet called Pre-Raphaelites, he was happy with Rossetti and William Morris; at Gleyre’s studio, in Paris, Sir Edward Poynter and Whistler were fellow-students; few, if any, knew Leighton so well as he; in old Little Holland House, as it was almost forty years ago, Watts lived with Mr. Prinsep’s parents; he and Millais had much in common.
Among the hundred treasures in the palatial red brick home of Mr. Prinsep in Holland Park Road – pictures, tapestries, objects of art, rare books – none was more highly prized than Millais’ ‘Eve of St Agnes,’ 1863, which came third in the painter’s own esteem, bought by Mr. Prinsep for 2,000 guineas at the Leyland dispersal, 1892. He married a daughter of Mr. Leyland, for whom Whistler painted the Peacock Room, and the purchase of the Leyland Boat Service by the Pierpont Morgan Trust is said to have considerably increased Mrs. Prinsep’s fortune. Mr. Prinsep’s fund of excellent stories, about all sorts of men and incidents and things, seemed quite inexhaustible. The Memorial Service in St. Paul’s Cathedral was an outward mark of the esteem in which he was held.
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