This contemporary notice and portrait of Clarkson Stanfield appeared in the Illustrated London News on 26 November 1859.

thumbail of Stanfield

Clarkson Stanfield, R. A. Click on thumbnail for larger image.

Clarkson Stanfield, our great seascape and marine painter, was born at Sunderland about the year 1798. He was brought up by the sea, and at sea was thrown into companionship with Douglas Jerrold, who, from the circumstance of his father being manager of the theatre at Deptford very early imbibed predilection for the stage. How often the business of one's after life is foreshadowed in the most [trivial] incidents of youth? On shipboard Jerrold got up stage . . . , and Stanfield painted the sets. Years afterward, when he had given up the sea as a profession, they met at Drury-lane Theatre as professional painter and writer, and both in high repute of popular favour. An artist with a natural gift, Stanfield owed much to his brief nautical experience, which revealed him, in all the force of truth, incidents and appearances which to many are matters of speculation and poetical [edification]. Hence the simple truthfulness of all his representations and the genuine sailor-like feeling displayed in their treatments. There is no conventionality, no claptrap, no exaggeration of [noble] effects in his productions; he is content with what is ordinary and probable; and he acknowledges the full force of the poetry which surrounds it. This is true. . . , and it will survive and be appreciated when the achievement of eccentric genius which have dazzled and bewildered a . . . public for a brief age have [crumbled] away and been forgotten. Amongst Mr. Stanfield's performances of the period we are speaking of were the moving dramas which formed so attractive a feature in the Christmas pantomimes of many succeeding years. Only those who have seen these really stupendous works can form an idea of the native talent and artistic skill displayed and the extent of . . . developed in them, extending generally from the shores of merry England to every conceivable point of temporary prevailing interest in the four quarters of the globe. And these [truly] grand works, though intended to serve only a temporary purpose, were lasting in the [effect]. They opened the eyes of a mixed audience of a theatre [who] admire the beauties of landscape painting; they taught even . . . some of its mysteries; and, whilst they established the fame of the author, they led to a permanent advance and improvement in the scenic decoration of our theatres. although, after serving the boisterous triumph of the [passion], these finely-constructed landscapes were destroyed and passed into the lumber-room, they were worthy, in an artistic sense, of reproduction in a more enduring form. Possibly sketches of them may exist, and, if so, we hope the hint we have thrown out may be adopted, and etchings of them, or portions of them, be published, in which form they would prove of great interest and value as materials both for the scene-painter and the student in landscape.

thumbanil of 
 Stanfield's Goodwin Sands

Goodwin Sands by Clarkson Stanfield, R. A. Click on picture for larger image.

When the Society of British Artists was founded (1823) Stanfield became one of their principal exhibitors; but his first large picture, "Wreckers off Fort Rouge," was exhibited at the British Institution in 1827. In the same year he exhibited at the Royal Academy "A Calm;" in 1829, a "View near Chalons sur Saone;" in 1830, his "Mount St. Michael." He has since been a regular and liberal contributor of works ranking amongst the most attractive in the exhibition, of which it must suffice to cite a few: -- "The Battle of Trafalgar," in 1836, painted for the United Service Club; "The Castle of Ischia" (1841); "French Troops Crossing the Magra" (1847), painted for the late Earl of Ellesmere; "The Battle of Noveredo," and "Wind against Tide," both painted for the late Robert Stephenson, Esq., M.P. (t hese two and "The Castle of Ischia" were the examples sent by Stanfield to the Paris Exhibition of 1855); "The Victory Towed into Gibraltar after the Battle of Trafalgar" (1853), and "The Siege of St. Sebastian" (1855), both painted for Sir S. Morton Peto, M.P.; and, lastly, "The Abandoned," 1856). In addition to these publicly-exhibited works, Stanfield commenced, in 1830, a series of large pictures of Venice, for the Marquis of Lansdowne's banqueting-room at Bowood; and, in 1834, a series of Views in Venice, for the Duchess of Sutherland, at Trentham.

Stanfield's visits to the Continent have been frequent, and his pencil in constant employment, sketching divers beauties of each passing seen, to be reproduced on larger canvas on his return home. Few landscape-painters have exhibited more variety in their subjects and in the effects bestowed upon them -- Italy, France, Holland; -- the silent streets of Venice, the lonely spots which stud the Adriatic and the Bay of Naples; -- mountain scenery, river scenery, champagne scenery, all in turn have presented their materials and engaged his attention; but, in our humble opinion, successful, dazzling, often poetical, as he has shown himself. . . .

Last modified 8 June 2007