"From a painting by himself" (frontispece to Smetham).


"In the 1870s Smetham began to paint in thinned oils mixed with copal (a kind of resin) over pen and ink on small panels, that he could 'do in a day and at a sitting', 'glowing in colour and rich in effect', 'too small for Exhibitions — more for cabinets'. They were to have been his financial salvation, but nothing could save him from the depression that gave him insomnia, against which he dosed himself increasingly with chloral. Smetham was a strange figure, conscious of his own isolation. A fervent Wesleyan, the son of a minister, he had attempted to evolve 'a place of life, beginning in a course of long disciplinary study, and intended to combine art, literature, and the religious life all in one'. Towards the end of his life lie wrote: 'Am I to be gradually crushed and ruined by critics, utter neglect or collision with Methodism?'"

"His work was greatly admired by Ruskin, and by Rossetti, who saw him as the successor to Blake." — Rupert Maas, p. 56

Biographical Material



Casteras, Susan. James Smetham: Artist, Author, Pre-Raphaelite Associate. Aldershot, England: Scolar Press, 1994. P. 114.

Davies, William. "Memoir of James Smetham." In Letters of James Smetham. Ed. Sarah Smetham and William Davies. London: Macmillan, 1892. 1-50. Google Books. Free Ebook.

James Smetham Studio Notebook, 1871-1873. Smetham Collection, SME/1/5/3. The Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History. Flickr. Web. 17 April 2021.

The Maas Gallery. Exhibition catalogue. London, 2008. [The Maas Gallery, London has most generously given its permission to use in the Victorian Web information, images, and text from its catalogues. The copyright on text and images from their catalogues remains, of course, with the Maas Gallery. Readers should consult the gallery website to obtain information about recent exhibitions and to order their catalogues. [GPL]

Last modified 5 November 2004