John Collier

John Collier, Lady Godiva, In the Forest of Arden, Bauty
John Collier was a Victorian neo-classical painter, apparently introduced early on to Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, who did not take him on as a pupil, and influenced later in his career by the portrait paintings of John Everett Millais and his Pre-Raphaelite colleagues.

Judging by the quotes from reviews written during his life and at the time of his death, Collier faced poor critical reception in many circles, particularly in the ability to assign mixed interpretations to his works in a genre that was intended to convey moral lessons. (Of course, by the time he died in 1934, the influence of Modernist critics was beginning to cast any 19th Century art that was not considered part of the path to Modernism as irrelevant.)

Collier was also criticized as less original and less skilled than his contemporaries. Perhaps this is true, but in his best images he captures some of the magic that makes Victorian painting so appealing; with bright colors, rich textures, palpable atmosphere and the added depth of backstory inherent in literary subjects and legends, as in his interpretation of the ride of Lady Godiva (above, top).

He was the vice-president of the Society of Portrait Painters and painted a number of luminaries, including Charles Darwin, Rudyard Kipling and Aldous Huxley, who was his nephew.

Collier was the author of at least three books, A Manual of Painting, A Primer of Art and The Art of Portrait Painting, all of which exist as modern reprints.

3 Replies to “John Collier”

  1. Good blog. I have always found Collier’s Pharoh’s Handmaidens particularly striking: the attractive female forms, not quite relaxed as they display a readiness to serve at a moment’s notice, and while their faces show no emotion, there is a pensiveness revealed that speaks of deep waters. Even his choice of colors hints at Egypt’s desert and ancient history. I was rather curious though, if anyone know what the approximate dimensions of the original paining are?

  2. In the Forest of Arden (second from top) is roughly 78×60″ (200×150 cm). Listings of dimensions are spotty, but you can find some on Art Renewal and WikiArt.

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