Edwin Landseer had been a child prodigy. He’d been called ‘a pictorial Shakespeare of animal expression’. He’d been made an associate member of the Royal Academy at the youngest possible age. He’d built up ‘an enviable reputation as the foremost animal painter of the day’, gained some eminent
patrons, and been accepted into high society, according to the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB). He’d enjoyed, throughout the 1830s, what one biographer called ‘a period of great fecundity on the highest plane of excellence’. Then, in May 1840, aged 38, Landseer had what the DNB described as ‘a severe nervous breakdown that cast a long shadow over his subsequent career’.
In September that year, he was reported to have ‘gone to Germany for the recovery of his health’. Then, in early 1841, presumably for the same reason, he spent some time in Brighton. The local Gazette noted on February 4th: ‘Mr Edwin Landseer has been residing here for the last three or four weeks. We are happy to say that this distinguished artist is recovering his health.’
This turned out to be over-optimistic. He lived for another 32 years, but ‘the shadows of depression, drink and an unstable temper dogged him,’ the Telegraph later noted.
Nonetheless, Landseer did resume his career, seemingly with a good deal of success. He remained widely admired, produced his famous Monarch of the Glen painting, and was given a long, effusive Times obituary. It claimed that ‘his paintings are well known in the household of every educated man through the length and breadth of the land’.
With thanks to Andrew Bennett, Brighton and Hove Archivist at The Keep
Illustration by Joda, jonydaga.weebly.com