Sunday, 30 March 2014


“A good painting to me has always been like a friend. It keeps me company, comforts and inspires.” - Hedy Lamarr

For Art Sunday, William Logsdail (25 May 1859 – 3 September 1944), who was a prolific English landscape, portrait, and genre painter. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Royal Society of British Artists, the Grosvenor Gallery, the New Gallery (London), and others. He is notable for his realistic London and Venice scenes and his plein air style.

He was born in the Close of Lincoln Cathedral, in Lincoln, England, May 1859. He was one of seven children, six boys and one girl. His father was a verger at the cathedral. As a boy, William attended Lincoln School, and also earned money by guiding visitors up the central tower of the cathedral. Logsdail then attended the Lincoln School of Art, where he initially showed an aptitude for architecture, but with the encouragement of his art master, Edward R. Taylor, he took to painting. While at the Art School, he won the Gold Medal for his work in competition with students at other English art schools.

He went on to study in Antwerp, at the École des Beaux-Arts, under Michel Marie Charles Verlat. While there, he became the first Englishman to win first prize at the School. One of his works from this period, “The Fish Market” (1880), was bought on behalf of Queen Victoria for Osborne House. When told of this, Logsdail supposedly commented, “Shows her Majesty’s good sense”.

In the autumn of 1880, Logsdail visited Venice where he was to remain, with occasional visits to England, the Balkans, Egypt and the Middle East, until 1900. During this early period in his career, he gravitated towards architectural and subject paintings. His “The Piazza of St. Mark’s, Venice”, painted in 1883, was judged by the Royal Academy to be the “picture of the year” when it was exhibited in London, although he appears to have been dissatisfied by it, and seriously considered cutting the painting up during its composition.

He also painted some sixty-nine small paintings for the Fine Art Society on the subject of the French and Italian Riviera. In 1893, Logsdail was awarded a medal for oil painting at the World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as the Chicago World’s Fair). After spending two years in Taormina and Sicily, he and his family returned to England, settling in West Kensington, London, where his “The Early Victorian” (1906) (a costume portrait of his daughter Mary) was well received. This marked the beginning of a period of portrait painting for Logsdail, who was offered so many commissions that he was able to pick and choose his sitter at will. In 1912, he was elected as a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. As his career progressed, he turned to flower studies.

In 1892 Logsdail meet Mary Ashman of Necton, near Swaffham in Norfolk, marrying her in May of the same year. With her, he had three children. In 1922, he and his family moved to Noke, near Islip, Oxfordshire, where Logsdail would remain until his death at age 85. Logsdail was a friend of Frank Bramley, who also attended Lincoln School of Art and went on to co-found the Newlyn School and be elected to the Royal Academy. While Logsdail was still studying, the art critic John Ruskin saw his painting of Lincoln Cathedral’s south porch and expressed a favourable opinion of the work, later writing to him and suggesting that he go to Verona once his studies had reached a conclusion, advice the young artist ignored. While in Venice, Logsdail moved in a social circle that included Harper Pennington, Robert Frederick Blum, Martin Rico y Ortega, Frank Duveneck, James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent, the latter of whom inscribed a picture to Logsdail.

Logsdail cultivated a tight objective and realistic style, although his later portraiture and the works painted while in Sicily demonstrate a relaxation of this style. His Venice-based works exhibit a high degree of draughtsmanship described as beautiful and nearly photographic. There is a cool proficiency in his architectural work and street scenes that express what was actually there before him. For example, in the winter in which he came to paint his “St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields” (1888), he hoped for a snow scene, but when faced with only rain and sleet, Logsdail, with his feet buried in straw to keep them warm, painted the scene without snow.

The painting above is “Picking Flowers in an Orange Grove” (oil on canvas, 51 x 73cm), which was sold at auction on 29 October 2008, for £6,000 (AU$ 10,797). The artist’s grandson, William has suggested that this picture was painted by Logsdail during his trip to Sicily where he spent two years after his lengthy stay in Venice.
 The character on the right by the tree is probably the artist’s wife May who appears in many of Logsdail’s compositions. It is typical of Logsdail’s early work and shows a facile use of the medium to convey light and colour naturalistically. 


  1. This picture in particular really would do well in my hall....!

  2. How beautiful! And it didn't seem to sell for too much... I wonder if his work is not appreciated as much as it should be?