Symbolism Artist Series ~ John Collier
Another British master is John Collier. He was part of the Pre-Raphaelite movement; a much loved sub-genre of the Symbolism movement. His beautiful, almost invisible, brushwork adds a sense of realism that was missing from many of his contemporaries. He was known as much for his lush pastoral paintings as his strong, sensuous female figures in both everyday life and mythology.
The Honourable John Maler Collier OBE RP ROI (27 January 1850 – 11 April 1934) was a leading English artist, and an author. He painted in the Pre-Raphaelite style, and was one of the most prominent portrait painters of his generation. Both his marriages were to daughters of Thomas Henry Huxley. He studied painting at the Munich Academy where he enrolled on 14 April 1875 at the age of 25.
Collier was from a talented and successful family. His grandfather, John Collier, was a Quaker merchant who became a Member of Parliament. His father (who was a Member of Parliament, Attorney General and, for many years, a full-time judge of the Privy Council) was created the first Lord Monkswell. He was also a member of the Royal Society of British Artists.
Collier died in 1934. His entry in the Dictionary of National Biography (volume for 1931–40, published 1949) compares his work to that of Frank Holl because of its solemnity. This is only true, however, of his many portraits of distinguished old men — his portraits of younger men, women and children, and his so-called “problem pictures”, covering scenes of ordinary life, are often very bright and fresh.
His entry in the Dictionary of Art (1996 vol 7, p569), by Geoffrey Ashton, refers to the invisibility of his brush strokes as a “rather unexciting and flat use of paint” but contrasts that with “Collier’s strong and surprising sense of colour” which “created a disconcerting verisimilitude in both mood and appearance”.