John Collier is the consummate British portrait painter

Queen Guinevere, we celebrate the arrival of spring.
Queen Guinevere, we celebrate the arrival of spring.

John Collier is the consummate British portrait painter of the Victorian era

John Maler Collier (January 27, 1850 April 11, 1934) is a famous British artist of the late XIX early XX centuries, an outstanding master of the historical and portrait genres. He was one of the most famous representatives of the Pre-Raphaelite movement in the history of English art. Among the best masterpieces of his work there are many portraits of prominent contemporaries and paintings on mythological themes. The master’s biography is a worthy example of the successful career of a hardworking and talented artist.

John Collier came from a highly respected and wealthy family of London politicians. His father served for many years as Crown Attorney and Judge of the Privy Council, and was also a member of the House of Lords of the British Parliament.

Sleeping Beauty.
Sleeping Beauty.
Pamela on the stone steps.
Pamela on the stone steps.

John Collier biography

John Mahler Collier was born on January 27, 1850 in the prestigious Chelsea area, located in the west of London. He inherited the ability to draw from his father, who was fond of painting and creating caricatures in his youth. He was the second son in the family and could not claim the hereditary title of Lord Monkswell, so his parents did not interfere with John’s desire to become a professional artist.

Death of Cleopatra.
Death of Cleopatra.

Collier graduated from the prestigious Eton College, then attended classes at the Felix Joseph Slade School of Fine Arts for several years, after which he left for Munich. In the capital of Bavaria, John successfully completed six years at the Academy of Arts and returned to London.

Due to his aristocratic background, Collier had good connections in London high society from the very beginning of his creative career. The talented young artist began to paint portraits to order and very soon became widely known in the circles of the highest British nobility.


Personal life of the artist

On his return to London, in 1878, John Collier met a charming girl named Marian, the daughter of Thomas Henry Huxley, President of the Royal Scientific Society. His chosen one was also an artist, young people fell in love, and in 1879 the couple got married.

Unfortunately, this marriage was very short. After the birth of her first child, Marian fell ill with a serious psychological disorder and was placed for treatment in a Paris clinic, where the young woman died suddenly in 1887.


Meanwhile, family misfortunes did not affect the development of Collier’s professional career. By the age of 30, he became a very popular portrait painter and earned decent money by painting pictures. In addition, John is seriously interested in mythological themes. And especially bright and colorful, he produced works based on ancient legends and tales depicting spectacular naked women.

Horace and Lydia.
Horace and Lydia.

Two years after the death of his first wife, John Collier again decided to try his luck in family life. To the surprise of those around him, this time Marian’s younger sister Ethel became his chosen one. But the Anglican Church flatly refused to recognize such a marriage, so the newlyweds had to get married in less conservative Protestant Norway. The second wife gave the painter two children a son and a daughter, with Ethel he lived happily for more than 40 years until his death.

John Collier achieved early public recognition and never experienced financial difficulties. Staying away from active political life, he enthusiastically took up painting.

Orchard in Devonshire.
Orchard in Devonshire.
During his career, the master created hundreds of portraits of famous contemporaries:
  • politicians and military leaders;
  • scientists and members of the royal family;
  • high-ranking officials and priests;
  • artists, actors and society ladies.

The painter very rarely left his native London and was never engaged in teaching. In prosperity and family happiness, he lived most of his life in a luxurious mansion on Eaton Avenue, in the northwestern part of the British capital. And on April 11, 1934, at the age of 84, John Collier, surrounded by loved ones, left this world forever.

Touchstone and Audrey.
Touchstone and Audrey.
Armida's Garden.
Armida’s Garden.
The most famous paintings by John Collier

The brilliant British master of painting gave humanity a huge number of wonderful works. And yet, the most famous paintings by John Collier are:

  • “Portrait of Charles Darwin” (1882) one of the most famous works of the portrait genre of the author. The great scientist is depicted in the picture in a dark coat with a hat in his hand, he gazes intently and calmly at the viewer, radiating calmness and confidence in his abilities.
  • Circe (1885) is a work in which the artist depicted a powerful naked sorceress, resting next to wild animals. A beautiful woman gracefully leans with one hand on a mighty tiger, and a graceful jaguar rubs at her feet.
  • Lilith (1889) is a masterpiece dedicated to the Hebrew demoness-seducer. The naked body of the red-haired beauty, entwined with a huge snake, stands out in dazzling whiteness against the dark surrounding background.
  • “Lady Godiva” (1898) is a painting that clearly illustrates the ancient English legend of the patroness of Coventry. The beautiful maiden agreed to ride naked on a horse across the city in order for her husband to lower taxes for citizens.
John Collier Myrrh, Aloe and Cassia.
Myrrh, Aloe and Cassia.
John Collier Meditation.
John Collier Prodigal daughter.
Prodigal daughter.
John Collier A glass of wine with Caesar Borgia.
A glass of wine with Caesar Borgia.
John Collier First lady.
First lady.
John Collier Royal shilling.
Royal shilling.
John Collier Brotherhood.
John Collier Hetty Sorrell.
Hetty Sorrell.
John Collier May, Agatha, Veronica and Audrey, daughters of Colonel Makins.
May, Agatha, Veronica and Audrey, daughters of Colonel Makins.
John Collier Marriage of convenience.
Marriage of convenience.
John Collier Poor.
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