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Edward Armitage (May 20, 1817 – May 24, 1896) was an English Victorian era painter whose work focussed on historical, classical and biblical subjects
Armitage was born in London to a family of wealthy Yorkshire industrialists, the eldest of seven sons of James Armitage (1793–1872) and Anne Elizabeth Armitage née Rhodes (1788–1833), of Farnley Hall, just south of Leeds, Yorkshire. His great-grandfather James (1730–1803) bought Farnley Hall from Sir Thomas Danby in 1799 and in 1844 four Armitage brothers, including his father James, founded the Farnley Ironworks, utilising the coal, iron and fireclay on their estate. His brother Thomas Rhodes Armitage (1824–1890) founded the Royal National Institute of the Blind.
Armitage's art training was undertaken in Paris, where he enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts* in October 1837. He studied under the history painter, Paul Delaroche, who at that time was at the height of his fame. Armitage was one of four students selected to assist Delaroche with the fresco* Hemicycle in the amphitheatre of the Palais des Beaux-Arts, when he reputedly modelled for the head of Masaccio. Whilst still in Paris, he exhibited Prometheus Bound in 1842, which a contemporary critic described as 'well drawn but brutally energetic'.
In 1843 Armitage returned to London, where he entered competitions for the decoration of the new Palace of Westminster, the old Houses of Parliament having been destroyed by fire in 1834. To organise and oversee this project, a Royal Commission had been appointed in 1841, the President of which was Queen Victoria's new Consort, Prince Albert. Decorations were to be executed in fresco and were to illustrate subjects from British history or from the works of Spenser, Shakespeare or Milton. Competitions were held for appropriate designs ('cartoons'), with a number of leading artists commissioned to take part.
The first competition entries were unveiled in Westminster Hall in the summer of 1843 and attracted considerable attention from the public. Armitage's cartoon, The Landing of Julius Caesar in Britain, secured one of the three first prizes of £300. He won a further prize in 1845 in a subsequent Westminster competition for his cartoon The Spirit of Religion. Although neither of these cartoons was executed in fresco, Armitage did execute two frescoes in the Poets' Gallery off the Upper Waiting Hall: The Thames and its Tributaries (also referred to as The Personification of the Thames) (1852), from the poetry of Alexander Pope; and The Death of Marmion (1854), from Sir Walter Scott's poem. Unfortunately frescoes were ill-suited to the atmosphere of 19th-century London, and many started to disintegrate almost as soon as they were completed.
In 1848 Armitage exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy* when he showed two paintings, Henry VIII and Catherine Parr, and Trafalgar. He continued to send contributions most years until his death.
The art dealer Ernest Gambart sent Armitage to the Crimea in 1855 to make on-the-spot sketches for pictures including The Stand of the Guards at Inkerman and The Heavy Cavalry Charge at Balaclava, which were shown at Gambart's French gallery in London in the spring of 1856. He exhibited Souvenir of Scutari at the Royal Academy in 1857 (now in Tyne and Wear Museums).
A number of Armitage's sketches from the Crimea were reproduced in the Illustrated London News and The Graphic, including Lord Raglan and Sir Edmund Lyons, General Bosquet, Captor of Malakoff Tower, General Trochu and Before Sebastopol, Zouaves Making Gabions.
After retiring from the Royal Academy in May 1894, Armitage spent some time in Tunbridge Wells, where he died on 24 May 1896 of apoplexy and exhaustion following pneumonia. He is buried in Hove Cemetery.
"Edward Armitage", Wikipedia, //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Armitage (Accessed 7/24/2013)
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