Online Encyclopedia

GEORGE HEMMING MASON (1818–1872)

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 839 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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GEORGE HEMMING MASON (1818–1872), English painter, was born at Wetley Abbey, the eldest son of a Staffordshire county gentleman. He was educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham, and studied for the medical profession for five years under Dr Watt of that city. But all his thoughts being given to art, he abandoned medicine in 1844 and travelled for a time on the Continent; finally settling in Rome, where he remained for some years and sought to make a living as an artist. During this period he underwent many privations which permanently affected his health; but he continued to labour assiduously, making studies of the picturesque scenery that surrounded him, and with hardly any instruction except that received from Nature and from the Italian pictures he gradually acquired the painter's skill. At least two important works are referable to this period: " Ploughing in the Campagna," shown in the Royal Academy of 1857, and " In the Salt Marshes, Campagna," exhibited in the following year. After Mason's return from the continent, in 1858, when he settled at Wetley Abbey, he continued for a while to paint Italian subjects from studies made during his stay abroad, and then., his art began to touch in a wonderfully tender and poetic way the peasant life of England, especially of his native Staffordshire, and the homely landscape in the midst of which that life was set. The first picture of this class was " Wind on the Wold," and it was followed—along with much else of admirable quality —by the painter's three greatest works: The " Evening Hymn " (1868), a band of Staffordshire mill-girls returning from their work; " Girls dancing by the Sea " (1869); and the " Harvest Moon " (1872). He left Staffordshire in 1865 and went to live at Hammersmith; and he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1869. By that time he had fully established his position as an artist of unusual power and individuality. Mason died on the 22nd of October 1872. In his work he laboured under the double disadvantage of feeble and uncertain health, and a want of thorough art-training, so that his pictures were never produced easily, or without strenuous and long-continued effort. His art is great in virtue of the 'solemn pathos which pervades it, of the dignity and beauty in rustic life which it reveals, of its keen perception of noble form and graceful motion, and of- rich effects of colour and subdued light. In motif and treatment it has something in common with the art of Millet and Jules Breton, as with that of Frederick Walker among Englishmen; though he had neither the occasional uncouth robustness of Millet nor the firm actuality of Jules Breton. His pictures " Wind on the Wold " and " The Cast Shoe " are in the National Gallery of British Art.
End of Article: GEORGE HEMMING MASON (1818–1872)
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