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Henry John Boddington (1811 - 1865)
Henry John Boddington
(1811 - 1865)
The Way to the Mill, North Wales
Oil on canvas
24 x 36 inches
Signed; also titled on a label on the reverse
Possibly: Society of British Artists, 1854, No. 78.
The following is part of a letter from Michael Knowles:

...Your picture was completed after 1850 and most likely towards the end of 1853, early 1854. It is therefore possible that was exhibited at the Society of British Artists in 1854, as exhibit No. 78. At this time Boddington was one of the most well known of the elite group of 27 members of the SBA and one of Britain's premier landscape painters - in the manner of the English School. He was charismatic, extremely popular with his contemporaries and enjoyed a wide circle of friends. The SBA was often referred to simply as 'Suffolk Street', being the address in which their offices and gallery were located. Boddington and Percy were considered the leaders of the Suffolk Street Group - the landscape painters within the Society. In 1887, under the presidency of James Whistler, the society became the Royal Society of British Artists.
By 1854 Boddington was in his third decade of success and his paintings were eagerly sought, particularly by the Art-Union prize-winners. In this same year his finances enabled him to move to a large residence at 1 Lonsdale Villas, which was located at Barnes, in Surrey, just a short walk from his father's home where two of his brothers, Sidney (Percy) and Alfred (A W Williams) had their studio. George Augustus Williams, his son Walter and Boddington's son Edwin also painted from these locations. The production of these ateliers was sometimes referred to as being of The Barnes School.
The Williams family was one of the most important family groups of painters in the mid nineteenth century and through their endeavors assisted in extending the Golden Age of English landscape painting. As a group they had much in common with the Hudson River School. Their work, particularly that of Boddington and Percy, was known to members of the Hudson River School before it was fashionable to refer to them under this name. John Frederick Kensett, amongst others, had made a particular study of Boddington's paintings whilst on a visit to England in the late 1840s. Jasper F Cropsey made comment on Percy's work during one of his visits in the 1850s. For my money I think that William Trost Richards had more in common with S R Percy: both displayed an aesthetic discipline in their compositions. As you know there was a lot of cross fertilization between the American, British and European schools. From America we, of course, even had Benjamin West as the second president of the Royal Academy (Whistler already mentioned above).
It seems to me that the great works of the American School of the nineteen century are not only hard to come by but are priced well beyond the average collector’s pocket and yet with some of the best of the English School from the same era we have comparable works at giveaway prices.
Signed and inscribed No.1 The Way to the Mill, N.Wales, H.J. Boddington Marling, Hammersmith, on a label.

Born Henry John Williams, he was the second of six sons of Edward Williams, all of whom were artists.  Boddington showed an early talent for painting and received his only formal training from his father.  He quickly developed an individual style ? characterized by his manipulation of blocked light as it filtered through an archway of trees. Jan Reynolds, in her book The Williams Family of Painters, notes that one of Boddington's:

 ...most characteristic effect is the appearance of a warm day, with the sun just out of the picture, giving a filmy, hazy atmosphere to the landscape, with deep blue shadows adding greater value to the opposing tone of yellow.  The distant mountains are melting in vapory sunlight.  The artist is a master of this effect...

Boddington enjoyed working on a large-scale ? allowing him to capture the majestic beauty of the English countryside.  The Fine Arts Quarterly Review (Vol.3, 1865) noted that Boddington was:

...an artist who, if he fell into manneri­sm, had yet during a hard working life, painted pictures not only large, but some­times grand. His landscapes of mountains, lake and river had scenic breadth and power...

It was these aspects of his work that made him so popular during his lifetime.

In 1832, he married Clarissa Eliza Boddington and decided to adopt her maiden name ? thereby giving him and his paintings more in­dividual identification.  By 1840, he already established his reputation as a painter of woodland and village scenes and in 1842, at the age of 31, he became a member of the Royal Society of British Artists. Although a great number of artists exhibited with the Society, membership was very limited and H.J. Boddington was the only member of his family to achieve this honor which carried with it definite status and responsibility.

It is interesting to note that Boddington, at times, collaborated with the sporting artist John Frederick Herring, Sr., a fellow Member of the Royal Society of British Artists.  Herring contribu­ted by painting horses and animals into a Boddington's prepared landscape.

Boddington exhibited extensively throughout his lifetime ? showing works at the Royal Academy (RA), Royal Society of British Artists (RBA), The British Institution and elsewhere. Among the works he exhibited were: On the Thames near Weybridge (RA, 1837); The Gyspy Camp (RA, 1843); A Quiet Morning – North Wales (RA, 1851); The Lake of Tal-y-llyn, North Wales (RBA, 1853); Tintern Abbey – Evening (RBA, 1859).

Today examples of Boddington's work can be seen in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; National Museum of Wales, Cardiff; City Art Gallery, Blackburn; Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow; Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston; City Art Gallery, York; Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mass.

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