drawing painter father
MULREADY,WILLTAm (1786-1863), subject painter, was born at Ennis, county Clare, on 30th April 1786. When he was about five years old his father, a leather-breeches maker by trade, removed to London, where the son received a tolerable education, chiefly under Catholic priests. He was fond of reading, furtively studying Pope's Homer and other works at the book-stalls, and fonder still of drawing.1 When eleven years old Mulready was employed by an artist named Graham as the model for a figure in his picture of Solomon Blessed by his Father David. The painter's interest in the lad did much to confirm his artistic proclivities; and, having studied at home for two years, Mulready applied for advice to Banks the sculptor, who sent him to a drawing-school and permitted him to work in his own studio. In 1800 he was admitted a student of the Academy, and two years later he gained the silver palette of the Society of Arts. About this time he was associated with John Varley, the eccentric water-colour painter and drawing-master, whom he assisted in the tuition of his band of talented pupils, which included Cox, Fielding, Linnell, William Hunt, and Turner of Oxford. At eighteen he married a sister of Varley's, and at twenty-four he was the father of four sons. The marriage was a singularly unhappy one, and the pair separated before many years. With all these "hostages to fortune" he had a hard struggle, but he was blessed with unfailing energy and the power of steady application. He "tried his hand at everything," as he said, "from a miniature to a panorama." He painted portraits, taught drawing, and up till 1809 designed illustrations to a long series of children's penny books. His first pictures were classical and religious subjects of no great merit, and the early works which he sent to the Academy were mainly landscapes ; but he soon discovered his special aptitude for genre-painting, and in 1809 produced the Carpenter's Shop, and in 1811 the Barber's Shop, pictures influenced by the example of Wilkie and the Dutch painters. In 1813 he exhibited his Punch, a work more original and spontaneous in treatment, which brought the artist into notice, and two years later his Idle Boys procured his election as associate. Next year he received full academic honours, and the election was fully justified by the Fight Interrupted which he then exhibited. It was followed by the Wolf and the Lamb (1820), the Convalescent (1822), Interior of an English Cottage (1828), Dogs of Two Minds (1830), the Seven Ages (1838), and in 1839 and 1840 by the Sonnet and First Love, two of the most perfect and poetical of the artist's works. In 1840 he designed the well-known postal envelope for Rowland Hill, and a set of illustrations to the Vicar of Wakefield, which were succeeded by his paintings of the Whistonian Controversy (1844), Choosing the Wedding Gown (1846), and Sophia and Burchell Haymaking (1849). His later works, like the Bathers (1849), Mother teaching her Children (1859), and the Toy Seller (1862) show declining powers, mainly attributable to failing health. The last evening of his life was spent at a meeting of the Academy, of which, for nearly fifty years, he had been a most active and efficient member. He died of heart-disease on the 7th July 1863.
In his way of work Mulready was most painstaking and conscientious, executing for each picture very elaborate studies for the several parts, and many sketches for colour and effect. His productions are characterized by accuracy of drawing and richness of colouring ; but they want something of the force and fire which come of less considered and elaborate, but more instinctive and inspired, workmanship.