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Richard Parkes Bonington (1802-1828), Coastal Scene with Fishing Boats, oil on canvas, 40x60cm

Richard Parkes Bonington was born in Arnold near Nottingham in 1802, but moved to Calais with his family at the age of 15.  His father, also called Richard, was a provincial drawing-master and painter.  In Calais, Bonington studied under Louis Francia, who had been a friend and associate of Thomas Girtin, the English watercolourist.  Under Francia Bonington consolidated his knowledge of the watercolour technique and learnt the process of lithography.  In 1820 he went to Paris, where he became acquainted with Eugene Delacroix, and entered the Ecole des Beaux Arts.  For a time, Bonington was influenced by the medieval and oriental themes of the French Romantic movement, and produced a number of oil paintings in this manner.
Bonington was an accomplished watercolourist from an early age, and he was known for his landscapes, which he exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1822 and 1824.  In the latter he won a gold medal for his originality and atmospheric effects.  Each summer Bonington would set off on a sketching tour, visiting places like Normandy, Picardy and Flanders, and in 1826 he travelled to Venice, where he produced some of his finest works.
Unfortunately Bonington died of consumption at the age of 26.  The Wallace Collection in London probably owns the finest collection in the world of his works, including 11 oil paintings and 25 watercolours, ranging from his richly costumed historical scenes, to views of France and northern Italy.


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