John Lucas Tupper (1824?-1879), who was an early member of the Pre-Raphaelite circle and who remained close to several original members of the Brotherhood until his death, today has been almost entirely forgotten. When William Michael Rossetti edited a posthumous volume of his friend's poems in 1897, he furnished a brief biographical sketch; and more recently Oswald Doughty wrote "A Minor Pre-Raphaelite: John Lucas Tupper" (English Miscellany 11 : 175-210). Doughty, who did not have the advantage, possessed by more recent scholars, of consulting the Hunt/Tupper letters in the Huntington Library and the Hunt/Stephens letters in the Bodleian Library, mistakenly believed that Dante Gabriel Rossetti was Tupper's closest friend in the group. In fact, he was far more friendly with these other two members of the PRB. These biographical notices, mentions of Tupper by editors of recent editions of The Germ, and a few passing references elsewhere are all that is easily available about this interesting minor figure.
Linnaeus by John Lucas Tupper, 1856; click on image for larger pictureLike many members of the Pre-Raphaelite circle, Tupper aspired to create both visual and verbal arts, and in the course of his life he exhibited sculpture at the Royal Academy, provided the statue of Linnaeus for Woodward's Oxford Natural History Museum, and published poetry, pamphlets, criticism, reviews, and a treatise on art education. According to W. M. Rossetti's "Prefatory Notice" to Poems by the Late John Lucas Tupper, "The tendency of his mind was certainly quite as much scientific as artistic" (viii). Apparently while still a student at the Royal Academy schools, Tupper gained a position as an anatomical draftsman at Guy's Hospital, London, and he did not leave this position until 1863. In March 1865 he received an appointment as the master for geometrical or scientific drawing at Rugby. Financially secure for the first time in his professional career, he married Annie Amelia French on 31 December 1871. Tupper had two children, one of whom, Holman, he named after his friend Hunt, who served as godfather to the boy. After a period of failing health, Tupper died on 29 September 1879.
Although Tupper is hardly a major writer, he often has interesting ideas, and he also furnishes interesting additions to our picture of the PRB and its associates. For example, in the course of his "Extracts from the Diary of an Artist," which he published in the American journal The Crayon, Tupper includes an entry for 16 March 1841 in which he mentions "the idea of mine, that the painters before Raffaelle's time were better, i.e. more Christian, than Raffaelle himself: and that he introduced the heathen element into modern Art" (The Crayon 3 (1856), 235). Many of these extracts from Tupper's diaries are among the most interesting things he wrote, and in them, one finds many important anticipations of Ruskin and Pre-Raphaelitism.
The Sotheby's sale on Tuesday, 6 July 1971, of the "Property of the late Miss A. D. M. Tupper," which occasioned the acquisition of the Bodleian and Huntington Tupper collections, also included a lot 759 -- a "Collection of personal papers, including medical notes, poems, printed pamphlets (of articles written by him), notes on the Tupper family, photographs, press clippings, etc" When these materials are located, students of Pre-Raphaelitism will perhaps discover even more useful information. I am most grateful to Professor Kathleen Tillotson for providing me with photocopies of the sale catalogue and for her assistance in trying to locate various Tupper materials. This introduction is the first part of an article cited below that originally appeared in The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies [GPL].
Works in Sculpture
Coombs, James H., George P. Landow, Anne Scott, and Arnold Sanders, eds. A Pre-Raphaelite Friendship: The Correspondence of William Holman Hunt and John Lucas Tupper. Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1986.
Landow, George P. "A Check List of the Writings of John Lucas Tupper, Friend of the Pre-Raphaelites." The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies 7 (1986): 63-68.
Last modified 8 April 2021