William Mulready - Encyclopedia




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WILLIAM MULREADY (1786-1863), English subject painter, was born at Ennis, Co. Clare, on the 30th of April 1786. When he was about five years old his father, a leather-breeches maker by trade, removed to London, where the son received a tolerable education, chiefly under Catholic priests. He was fond of reading, and fonder still of drawing.' When eleven years old Mulready was employed by an artist named Graham as the model for a figure in his picture of "Solomon Blessed by his Father David." The painter's interest in the lad did much to confirm his artistic proclivities; and, having studied at home for two years, Mulready applied for advice to Banks the sculptor, who sent him to a drawing school and permitted him to work in his own studio. In 1800 he was admitted a student of the Academy, and two years later he gained the silver palette of the Society of Arts. About this time he was associated with John Varley, the eccentric water-colour painter and drawing-master, whom he assisted in the tuition of his pupils, who included Cox, Fielding, Linnell, William Hunt, and 1 Some reproductions of his early attempts in this direction are given, along with details of his life, in a scarce volume for the young, entitled The Looking-Glass, written by William Godwin under the nom de plume of Theophilus Marcliffe, and published in 1805.

Turner of Oxford. At eighteen he married a sister of Varley's, and at twenty-four he was the father of four sons. The marriage was unhappy, and the pair separated before many years. He "tried his hand at everything," as he said, "from a miniature to a panorama." He painted portraits, taught drawing, and up till 1809 designed illustrations to a series of children's penny books. His first pictures were classical and religious subjects of no great merit, and the early works which he sent to the Academy were mainly landscapes; but he soon discovered his special aptitude for genre-painting, and in 1809 produced the "Carpenter's Shop," and in 1811 the "Barber's Shop," pictures influenced by the example of Wilkie and the Dutch painters. In 1813 he exhibited his "Punch," a more original and spontaneous work, which brought the artist into notice, and two years later his "Idle Boys" procured his election as associate. Next year he received full academic honours, and the election was justified by the "Fight Interrupted" which he then exhibited. It was followed by the "Wolf and the Lamb" (1820), the "Convalescent" (1822), "Interior of an English Cottage" (1828), "Dogs of Two Minds" (1830), the "Seven Ages" (1838), and in 1839 and 1840 by the "Sonnet and First Love," two of the most perfect and poetical of the artist's works. In 1840 he designed an allegorically covered postal envelope (the "Mulready envelope," soon discontinued 2) for Rowland Hill, and a set of illustrations to The Vicar of Wakefield, which were succeeded by his paintings of the "Whistonian Controversy" (1844), "Choosing the Wedding Gown" (1846), and "Sophia and Burchell Haymaking" (1849). His later works, like the "Bathers" (1849), "Mother teaching her Children" (1859), and the "Toy Seller" (1862), show declining powers, mainly attributable to failing health. The last evening of his life was spent at a meeting of the Academy, of which, for nearly fifty years, he had been a most active and efficient member. He died of heart disease on the 7th of July 1863.

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