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 Sydney Prior Hall  (1842 - 1922)

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Lived/Active: United Kingdom      Known for: portrait, wildlife painting, illustration

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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.

Sydney Prior Hall (1842–1922)

Born at All Saints, Newmarket, Suffolk, on 18 October 1842, eldest son of artist Henry (Harry) Hall (1815–1882 q.v.), and his wife, Ellen Ann née Payne.  Educated at Merchant Taylors' School, London, and at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he held a scholarship and in 1865 gained a first class in literae humaniores.  He also attended the Royal Academy Schools in London under Arthur Hughes.

Hall produced a series of 100 Oxford sketches (1864–1866) illustrating topical events in the life of the university.  Although a talented painter in oils and in watercolors and exhibited at the Dudley Gallery, Grosvenor Gallery, Liverpool Walker Art Gallery, Manchester City Art Gallery, New Gallery, Royal Society of Portrait Painters, Royal Academy, the Royal Institute of Water Colour Artist and the Royal Hiberian Academy between 1875 and 1920, it was as an illustrator that Hall became best-known and was one of the principal contributors to William Luson Thomas's illustrated weekly The Graphic.

Hall's domestic arrangements were unconventional: for much of the 1870s he lived out of wedlock with Emma Dinah (1845-1894), daughter of cellarman John Holland, at 39 Birkbeck Road, Islington, London.  On 30 September 1873 a son was born, Reginald Holland (Harry) Hall, later assistant keeper of Egyptian and Assyrian antiquities at the British Museum. The couple later married at Islington register office, on 14 January 1877, when they were living at 3 Pyrland Villas, Calverley Grove. 

Among Hall's many pencil drawings in the National Portrait Gallery are studies of Charles Bradlaugh, John Bright, Joseph Chamberlain, Michael Davitt, William Ewart Gladstone, Charles Stewart Parnell, and Oscar Wilde.  He painted a number of portraits of the royal family and in 1901 Hall was a member of the suite of the Duke and Duchess of York, and special artist of The Graphic, on board HMS Ophir and created MVO that year.  After the death of his first wife he married secondly, on 4 August 1906, Mary Lightbody (1851–1929), daughter of James Gow, painter; and artist Andrew Carrick Gow (1848–1920) was her brother.  Mary Gow too was a painter, mostly producing figures and genre in watercolors, and she exhibited widely, principally at Suffolk Street, where she sent eighteen works between 1869 and 1880.  She was represented at the Royal Academy from 1873, and her Marie-Antoinette was purchased under the Chantrey bequest in 1908.  She was elected a member of the Institute of Painters in Water Colors in 1875.

Sydney Prior Hall died at his London home, 36 Grove End Road, St John's Wood, on 15 December 1922.

Information provided by Tony Copsey, author and researcher of artists in Suffolk County, England.


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