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ohn William Bottomley (1816-1900) is one of those artists whose lives and careers span different countries, and who, in consequence, are less well known in any one of them than they ought to be. Christopher Wood summarises his life is as follows: "London sporting and animal painter. Studied in Munich and Düsseldorf. Exhib. at RA 1845-75, and at SS [Society of British Artists], BI [British Institution]. Titles at RA show that he painted shooting scenes, dogs, deer, sheep and cattle, and a few pure landscapes. Thought to have painted many of the cattle in Creswick’s (q.v.) landscapes (55).

A few more facts can be gleaned from the German Wikipedia, where he appears as "William Bottomley." According to this account, selectively paraphrased here, he was the son of a merchant who had immigrated to Hamburg from Ireland, and attended the Düsseldorf Art Academy from 1833 to 1836. From there he moved on to the art academy in Munich, becoming a member of the Munich Art Association. In October 1838 he travelled to Rome with the history painter Henri Lehmann (1814-1882), where he became friends with the Danish sculptor, Jens Adolf Jerichau (1816-1883), sharing an apartment with Carl (or Charles) Ross (1816-1858), the Holstein landscape painter. In Rome he painted scenes of animal life: cattle at a water trough, sheep grazing, and bull fights in the Campagna. Several fellow-artists made likenesses of him; Jerichau sculpted a bust of him 1845.

Probably as a result of his family connections, Bottomley began to exhibit in London from 1845 onwards, and his success at the Royal Academy, the Society of British Artists and the British Institute encouraged him to settle in London. By this time, he had married Maria Heckman, born c.1812, in Germany; their daughter was born in Germany in 1848. Their son Reginald, however, was born at Bark Lane, Bayswater, in March 1856. According to the 1861 census the family had moved to 89 Masbro Road Hammersmith, and from 1867 to 1875 he gave 46 Bedford Gardens as his address. This was in a newly developed part of Kensington, much favoured by artists.

During these years he had established himself firmly as an animal painter. Perhaps it was his German connections that persuaded Queen Victoria to commission him to paint one of Prince Albert's favourite dogs, a St Bernard called Maurice. This is now in the Royal Collection. Typically, his pictures have animals as their main feature, placed in a wide variety of landscapes, including views of places in Sussex, Wales and Ireland; at the 1855 World's Fair in Paris he was represented in the English section with the painting, Under the Cloud. He was (as Wood suggests) good friends with with another landscape painter, Thomas Creswick, who was a near neighbour. He was also friends with W. P. Frith, and is thought to have been called on to paint some of the animals in his pictures as well.

Bottomley's wife Maria died in 1881, after which he suffered from depression and returned to Hamburg. In 1883 he visited Lorenz Frølich (1820-1908) in Copenhagen, then his friend Christian Carl Magnussen (1821-1896) took him under his wing. From 1884 until his death, Bottomley lived in Schleswig near the Magnussen family. He died there on 13 April 1900 at the age of 84, but his body was brought back to England in 1891 and he is buried in Marylebone cemetery. His son Reginald Bottomley, who died in 1933, was also an artist, specialising in portraits and genre paintings. — Shirley Nicholson found and adapted the entries on Bottomley both in Wood and in the German Wikipedia, and Carolyn Starren kindly added some extra information about the Bottomley family.



"William Bottomley." Wikipedia (in German) Web. 23 April 2023.

Wood, Christopher, with research by Christopher Newall. The Dictionary of Victorian Painters. 2nd ed. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors Club, 1978.

Created 21 April 2023

Information added 10 May 2023