William Collingwood 1819-1903

William Collingwood, belonged rather by courtesy than by natural association to the Liverpool group of painters, was born in Greenwich on 23rd April 1819. His father Samuel Collingwood was an architect, and his grandfathers brother, also a Samuel Collingwood, honorary M.A. of Oxford, was proprietor of the Oxford University Press. He himself was educated at Oxford, at the Christchurch School, and was a precocious scholar, especially in Greek. It is stated that he was offered a junior studentship at Christ Church, which he declined, from some scruple about the Thirty-nine Articles. He consequently did not matriculate, and his people put him in to Ackermann’s office, where he soon began to draw untaught. In this he was helped and encouraged by James Duffield Harding, a friend of his fathers, and also by his cousin, William Collingwood Smith. In 1837 he took two prizes for landscape at the Society of Arts, and in the following year began to exibit amongst the british artists at Suffolk Street. At the same time he moved to Hastings, where he formed an intimacy with Samuel Prout and old William Hunt.; but in Jaunary 1839, the offer of a teaching connection with several schools in Liverpool induced him to settle in that city, where he remained for 45 years. his sketches of that period, and for some time later, were brilliant and energetic, both in oil and watercolour; his subjects, primarily landscape or architecture of an antiquarian and historic interest, lying chiefly in Devon and Cornwall, Yorkshire, the Lakes, Scotland and Wales. He sketched a good many interiorsw of the Nash and Cattermole type, illustrative of the ancient life of such fine old mansions as Haddon Hall, Hurstmonceaux, Levens, and Cotele. His most important work of this period, however, was “Nelson at Yarmouth”, purchased by Mr Samuel Smith, M.P. although Lord Nelson would have died many years previously and so this painting must have been derived from other pictures¬†of the admiral. Later, his sketching took him to Switzerland , whence in 1851 he brough home his wife, Marie Elisabeth Imhoff, daughter of a notary at Arbon, in the canton of Thurgau. In 1856 a picture by him of “The Jungfrau at Sunrise” which has also been decribed as “Sunset on the Jura” which was in his sons possession at Coniston, was mentioned by Ruskin in his “Notes on the Principal Pictures of the Year”, and thenceforward he became chiefly known for his Alpine sketches. In these he exchanged the strong work of his earlier years for a more refined and delicate manner, combining softness with breadth.

Collingwood was an intensely religeous man, of a serious reserved nature, which prevented him from becoming very intimate with the other artists in Liverpool, or associating in their gatherings, although he joined the Liverpool Academy soon after his arrival in 1842. He was a member of the body known as the Plymouth Brethren, and spent a great deal of his time and earnings furthering its aims. He built a chapel at his own cost at Liverpool, where he was practically the minister, so far as the Brethren (who have no regular ministry) would allow it. He took Sunday and weekday services, Sunday School, etc., visiting like a clergyman, and, when away from home, used to seek opportunities for preaching, even in Switzerland, where he conducted services in French and, with less fluency, in German. Before he married, his ambition was to make enough to take him to China, where he hoped to combine missionary work with painting Chinese subjects, and his house was always a resort of missionary enthusiasts, including for example, T. Pietrocola Rossetti (A cousin of the painter) and Lord Congleton, who had been missionary to Bagdad, and who was one of the first to influence him in his choice of sect. Landscape painting he regarded as a sort of sacred art, much as did A.W. Hunt, who with his father, Andrew Hunt, was among the few intimate aquaintances Collingwood possessed outside the circle of his co-religionists.

In 1884 he left Liverpool, and after a year abroad, lived for sometime at Hastings. In 1890 he settled at Bristol, where he died on 25th June 1903. Collingwood was a member of the New Water-Colour Society, to which he was elected in 1845, and also of the Old Society, the R.W.S, from which he later retired, though he continued to paint and exhibit pictures until his death. He left two sons, one of whom, Mr William Gershom Collingwood, Ruskins biographer and sometime secretarty, is himself and artist. About forty years ago he delivered and published an interesting series of lectures, entitled ” The Value and Influence of Art in General Education.” As a teacher, he had great success in Liverpool, and left many warm memories among his old pupils, one of whom was the daughter of Mr John Miller, the friend and patron of so many of the Liverpool artists.

Timeline

1819, April 23 Born Greenwich

1837, Took two prizes for landscape at the Society of Arts, and in the following year began to exibit amongst the british artists at Suffolk Street.

1837, Moved to Hastings, where he formed an intimacy with Samuel Prout and old William Hunt.

1839, January, the offer of a teaching connection with several schools in Liverpool induced him to settle in that city, where he remained for 45 years. 

1842, He joined the Liverpool Academy soon after his arrival in Liverpool.

1845, Elected as a member of the New Water-Colour Society, and was also of the a member of the Old Society, the R.W.S, from which he later retired.

1851, brought home his wife from Switzerland.

1884, He left Liverpool, and after a year abroad, lived for sometime at Hastings.

1890, Settled at Bristol, where he was himself to Bethesda, and joined with his old friend George Muller, spending his leisure time in writing many papers and booklets, among which were “The Bible’s Own Evidence,” The Brethren: An Historical Sketch, “etc. Valuable articles on” Doctrine “and spiritual themes appeared in The Witness over a number of years.

1903, June 25 Died Bristol