Thomas Webster (painter)

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Thomas Webster RA (March 10, 1800 September 23, 1886), was a British painter of genre scenes of school and village life, many of which became popular through prints. He lived for many years at the artists' colony at Cranbrook in Kent.

Cranbrook Colony artist colony in Cranbrook, Kent

The Cranbrook Colony was a group of artists who settled in Cranbrook, Kent from 1853 onwards and were inspired by seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish painters. They have been referred to as 'genre' painters as they tended to paint scenes of the everyday life that they saw around them in the rural area of Kent where they lived, typically scenes of domestic life; cooking and washing, children playing and other family activities.



In Sickness and Health (1843; Victoria and Albert Museum, London) Thomas Webster07.jpg
In Sickness and Health (1843; Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

Webster was born in Ranelagh Street, Pimlico, London. His father was a member of the household of George III, and the son, having shown an aptitude for music, became a chorister, first at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, and then the Chapel Royal at St. James's Palace in London. He abandoned music for painting, however, and in 1821 was admitted as a student at the Royal Academy, exhibiting, in 1824, a portrait of "Mr Robinson and Family". In the following year he won first prize in the school of painting.

Pimlico An area of central London in the City of Westminster

Pimlico is a small area of Central London in the City of Westminster, built as a southern extension to neighbouring Belgravia. It is known for its garden squares and Regency architecture. It is demarcated to the north by Victoria Station, and bounded by the River Thames to the south, Vauxhall Bridge Road to the east and the former Grosvenor Canal to the west. At its heart is a grid of residential streets laid down by the planner Thomas Cubitt from 1825 and now protected as a conservation area. Additions have included the pre-World War II Dolphin Square and the Churchill Gardens and Lillington and Longmoore Gardens estates, now conservation areas in their own right. The area has over 350 Grade II listed buildings and several Grade II* listed churches. Residents have included politician Winston Churchill, designer Laura Ashley, philosopher Swami Vivekananda, actor Laurence Olivier, illustrator and author Aubrey Beardsley, Kenyan president Jomo Kenyatta, lawn-tennis inventor Major Walter Wingfield, and world record-holding pilot Sheila Scott.

George III of the United Kingdom King of Great Britain and Ireland

George III was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of the two countries on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death in 1820. He was concurrently Duke and prince-elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg ("Hanover") in the Holy Roman Empire before becoming King of Hanover on 12 October 1814. He was the third British monarch of the House of Hanover, but unlike his two predecessors, he was born in Great Britain, spoke English as his first language, and never visited Hanover.

Windsor Castle Official country residence of the British monarch

Windsor Castle is a royal residence at Windsor in the English county of Berkshire. It is notable for its long association with the English and later British royal family and for its architecture.

In 1825, also, Webster exhibited Rebels shooting a Prisoner, at the Suffolk Street Gallery - the first of a series of pictures of schoolboy life for which he subsequently became known. In 1828 he exhibited The Gunpowder Plot' at the Royal Academy, and in 1829 The Prisoner and A Foraging Party Aroused at the British Institution. These were followed by numerous other pictures of school and village life at both galleries. In 1840 Webster was elected an associate of the Royal Academy (ARA), and in 1846 a Royal Academician (RA). He continued to be a frequent exhibitor there until 1876, when he retired from the academy. He exhibited a self-portrait in 1878, and Released from School, his last picture, in 1879.

British Institution art society

The British Institution was a private 19th-century society in London formed to exhibit the works of living and dead artists; it was also known as the Pall Mall Picture Galleries or the British Gallery. Unlike the Royal Academy it admitted only connoisseurs, dominated by the nobility, rather than practicing artists to its membership, which along with its conservative taste led to tensions with the British artists it was intended to encourage and support. In its gallery in Pall Mall the Institution held the world's first regular temporary exhibitions of Old Master paintings, which alternated with sale exhibitions of the work of living artists; both quickly established themselves as popular parts of the London social and artistic calendar. From 1807 prizes were given to artists and surplus funds were used to buy paintings for the nation.

In 1856 Webster was photographed at the Photographic Institute in London by Robert Howlett, as part of a series of portraits of artists. The picture was among a group exhibited at the Art Treasures Exhibition in Manchester in 1857. [1]

Robert Howlett British photographer

Robert Howlett, was a pioneering British photographer whose pictures are widely exhibited in major galleries. Howlett produced portraits of Crimean War heroes, genre scenes and landscapes. His photographs include the iconic picture of Isambard Kingdom Brunel which was part of a commission by the Illustrated Times) to document the construction of the world's largest steamship, the SS Great Eastern.

Manchester City and metropolitan borough in England

Manchester is a major city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England, with a population of 545,500 as of 2017. It lies within the United Kingdom's second-most populous urban area, with a population of 2.7 million, and third-most populous metropolitan area, with a population of 3.3 million. It is fringed by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and an arc of towns with which it forms a continuous conurbation. The local authority for the city is Manchester City Council.

From 1835 to 1856 Webster lived at The Mall, Kensington, but the last thirty years of his life were spent at the artists' colony in Cranbrook, Kent, where he died on 23 Sept. 1886.

Kensington District within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in central London

Kensington is an affluent district in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in the West End of central London.


The Village Choir (c. 1847; Victoria and Albert Museum, London) Thomas Webster - A Village Choir.jpg
The Village Choir (c. 1847; Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

Webster became known for his genre paintings, often with children as subjects, depicting incidents from everyday life in a genial and humorous way. Many of these were exceedingly popular, particularly his Punch (1840) with which he procured associate membership of the Royal Academy.

In the limited range of subjects which he made his own, Webster was unrivalled. Some of his pictures - such as Please remember the Grotto, Snowballing and maybe The Swing - were issued as prints by Abraham Le Blond. [1] The Smile (1841), The Frown and The Boy with Many Friends, are among the numerous pictures which became well known by engravings. He also contributed work to volumes issued by the London-based Etching Club: The Deserted Village (1841), Songs of Shakespeare (1843), and Etch'd Thoughts (1844).

The Etching Club was an artists' society founded in London, England, in 1838 by Charles West Cope. The club published illustrated editions of works by authors such as Oliver Goldsmith, Shakespeare, John Milton and Thomas Gray. It effectively ceased to exist in 1878.

Webster was influential on the work of fellow Cranbrook artists George Bernard O'Neill and Frederick Daniel Hardy.


  1. 1 2 Thomas Webster biography Archived 2012-03-07 at the Wayback Machine ("Leighton Fine Art).

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