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 Percy (William Percy) French  (1854 - 1920)



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Lived/Active: Ireland/Scotland      Known for: watercolor landscape painting, sketching and illustration

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from Auction House Records.
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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.

Percy (William) French (1854-1920)

The landscape painter, sketcher and illustrator William French was born in County Roscommon. Quite apart from his artistic talent in drawing and watercolour painting, he was also a writer, banjo-player, opera composer, poet and one of Ireland's most popular songwriters and entertainers.  Hence his reputation as a Renaissance man.

French graduated from Trinity College Dublin as a civil engineer in 1881, joining the Board of Works in County Cavan as an Inspector of Drains.  During this time he combined work with a prolific output of watercolours, one of which - Where ever I go my heart turns back to the County Mayo - was sold by Dublin art auctioneers Whytes for a record €44,000.

In due course, his musical career took off. and he travelled widely, painting constantly.  He painted scenes from Canada, the USA and the West Indies, as well as Switzerland and England. A typical motif was his portrayal of light breaking through clouds onto a landscape, while sunsets were another regular subject for his landscape painting. French caught pneumonia during a series of concerts in Glasgow and died in January 1920, aged 65.

Percy William French exhibited regularly with the Water Colour Society of Ireland (WCSI) and the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA). He also exhibited in several galleries in London, including the New Dudley Gallery with Mildred Butler and Claud Hayes.  In 1974, 1979 and 1982 exhibitions of his works were staged at the Oriel Gallery Dublin.  In 1983, the Percy French Society was founded whose collection at the North County Down Heritage Centre includes about 80 of his watercolours.

Online Encyclopedia of Irish and World Art

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.

Percy French was a self-taught landscape painter and illustrator.   Born near Tulsk in Coounty Roscommon, Ireland, he was educated in England and later completed an engineering degree at TCD.

Ever the entrepreneur, he started various journals including the Irish Punch, wrote plays and comical sketches, and acted and sang in many of his own theatrical productions.  By the 1890s he was listed as a 'working member' of the Dublin Sketching Club, and between 1891 and 1901, French showed twenty-four works at the Royal Hibernian Academy.

He was a popular member of the United Arts Club, Dublin, and a member of the Belfast Art Society.  His painting entitled The Queens Entry into Dublin is in the NGI, whilst in the Royal Library of Windsor is a drawing of Queen Victoria's procession entering Phoenix Park.

However, he is best remembered for his atmospheric watercolour paintings of Irish bogs and skies, typically painted using a 'wet-on-wet' technique.

His work as both an artist and popular entertainer is commemorated by the Percy French Society, which was formed in the 1980s, and which has collection of some eighty watercolours by French on permanent display in the North Down Heritage Centre.
Whyte's Auction

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