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 Francis Seymour (Sir) Haden  (1818 - 1910)



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Lived/Active: United Kingdom/England/Ireland      Known for: etching and landscape painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Francis Haden
1818 (London, England)

United Kingdom/England/Ireland

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etching and landscape painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Sir Francis Seymour Haden (16 September 1818 - 1 June 1910), was an English surgeon, best known as an etcher.

He was born in London, his father, Charles Thomas Haden, being a well-known doctor and lover of music. He was educated at Derby School, Christ's Hospital, and University College, London, and also studied at the Sorbonne, Paris, where he took his degree in 1840. He was admitted as a member of the College of Surgeons in London in 1842.

In 1843-1844, with his friends Duval, Le Cannes and Colonel Guibout, he travelled in Italy and made his first sketches from nature. Haden attended no art school and had no art teachers, but between 1845 and 1848 he studied portfolios of prints belonging to a second-hand dealer named Love, who had a shop in Bunhill Row, the old Quaker quarter of London. Arranging the prints in chronological order, he studied the works of the great original engravers, Albrecht Dürer, Lucas van Leyden and Rembrandt. These studies, besides influencing his original work, led to his important monograph on the etched work of Rembrandt. By lecture and book, and with the aid of the memorable exhibition at the Burlington Fine Arts Club in 1877, he tried to give a true reflection of Rembrandt's work, giving a nobler idea of the master's mind by taking away from the list of his works many dull and unseemly plates that had long been included in the lists. His reasons were founded upon the results of a study of the master's works in chronological order, and are clearly expressed in his monograph, The Etched Work of Rembrandt critically reconsidered, privately printed in 1877, and in The Etched Work of Rembrandt True and False (1895).

Haden's printmaking was invigorated by his much younger brother-in-law, James Whistler, at the Haden home in Sloane Street in 1855. A press was installed there and for a while Haden and Whistler collaborated on a series of etchings of the Thames. The relationship and project did not last.

Haden followed the art of original etching with such vigour that he became not only the foremost British exponent of that art but brought about its revival in England. His strenuous efforts and perseverance, aided by the secretarial ability of Sir WR Drake, resulted in the foundation of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers. As president he ruled the society with a strong hand from its first beginnings in 1880.

Notwithstanding his study of the old masters of his art, Haden's own plates were very individual, and are particularly noticeable for a fine original treatment of landscape subjects, free and open in line, clear and well divided in mass, and full of a noble and dignified style of his own. Even when working from a picture his personality dominates the plate, as for example in the large plate he etched after J.M.W. Turner's "Calais Pier," which is a classical example of what interpretative work can do in black and white. Of his original plates, more than 250 in number, one of the most notable was the large "Breaking up of the Agamemnon."
An early plate, rare and most beautiful, is "Thames Fisherman". "Mytton Hall" is broad in treatment, and a fine rendering of a shady avenue of yew trees leading to an old manor-house in sunlight. "Sub Tegmine" was etched in Greenwich Park in 1859; and "Early Morning--Richmond", full of the poetry and freshness of the hour, was done, according to Haden, actually at sunrise. One of the rarest and most beautiful of his plates is "A By-Road in Tipperary"; "Combe Bottom" is another; and "Shere Mill Pond" (both the small study and the larger plate), "Sunset in Ireland," "Penton Hook," "Grim Spain" and "Evening Fishing, Longparish," are also notable examples of his genius. A catalogue of his works was begun by Sir William Drake and completed by Harrington in 1880. During later years Haden began to practise the sister art of mezzotint engraving, with a measure of the same success that he had already achieved in pure etching and in dry-point. Some of his mezzotints are: "An Early Riser," a stag seen through the morning mists, "Grayling Fishing" and "A Salmon Pool on the Spey." He also produced some remarkable drawings of trees and park-like country in charcoal.
Other books by Haden not already mentioned are:

    •    Etudes a l'eau forte (Paris, 1865)
    •    About Etching (London, 1878-1879)
    •    The Art of the Painter-Etcher (London, 1890)
    •    The Relative Claims of Etching and Engraving to rank as Fine Arts and to be represented in the Royal Academy (London, 1883)
    •    Address to Students of Winchester School of Art (Winchester, 1888)
    •    Cremation: a Pamphlet (London, 1875)
    •    The Disposal of the Dead, a Plea for Legislation (London, 1888).

As the last two indicate, he was an ardent champion of a system of "earth to earth" burial.
Among numerous distinctions he received the Grand Prix, Paris, in 1889 and 1900, and was made a member of the Institut de France, Académie des Beaux-Arts and Société des Artistes Français. He was knighted in 1894. He married in 1847 a sister of the artist James McNeill Whistler; and his elder son, Francis Seymour Haden (b. 1850), had a distinguished career as a member of the government in Natal Colony from 1881 to 1893, being made a C.M.G. in 1890.

A Catalogue Raisonné of the Prints of Sir Francis Seymour Haden by Dr Richard S. Schneiderman (1983)


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

The brother-in-law of James McNeill Whistler, Francis Haden did his best work in the early 1860s, shortly prior to which Haden and Whistler lived together, working jointly on an unfulfilled project of etchings of the Thames.

Haden also spent some time in Ireland in County Tipperary, and his works produced there have been rated as some of the finest landscape etchings of the nineteenth century.

He was a founding member and president of the Royal Etchers, and also pursued a career as an eminent physician, attending, among others, Queen Victoria.

Haden's etchings are represented in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum.
Whyte's Auction

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