Caffieri, Hector (1847-1932)

Caffieri, Hector (1847-1932)

British artist Hector Caffieri devoted his career to sun-tinted, salt-soaked scenes of seaside revelry. Splitting his time between London and the coastal city of Boulogne-Sur-Mer in Northern France, Caffieri produced popular images with stunning individuality.

Caffieri was born to French parents in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. His father was a successful wine merchant, although he filed for bankruptcy when Caffieri was 20 years old and beginning to pursue an interest in art. Caffieri would seemingly have to rely on his talent and determination.

Only a year later, he was exhibiting at the Society of British Artists in London, and the eminent artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) was writing on behalf of his ‘young friend’ Caffieri to procure him advice on the ‘best course’ to becoming a ‘London artist.’ Surely, this was a promising start.

For an unknown reason, Caffieri paused his arts training to undertake a stint in the Navy. After having to leave for health reasons (some sources claim he was short-sighted, which might explain this departure), Caffieri returned to his budding artistic career. This time, however, he turned to France.

It was common for young British artists to travel to Paris to procure arts training. It was here they could become involved with the flourishing, modern art scene. Caffieri would become a student at the Académie Julian, a forward-thinking institution which encouraged individualism amongst its students. Caffieri studied under the renowned French artists Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836-1911) and Léon Bonnat (1833-1922).

After completing his studies, Caffieri returned once more to London and established his own studio. He would often return, however, to France, and in particular to Boulogne-Sur-Mer, the city to which his parents had retired. This coastal community, as well as many seaside settings in Britain, called to his artistic inspiration.

Caffieri produced works depicting coastal life with a sun-kissed sublime quality. He utilised colour in a ‘charming’ manner which appealed greatly to art critics at the time. He was praised for his ‘assured cleverness of handling’ each scene, complimenting gorgeous, flourishing landscapes with figures of women and children. There is little sense of narrative lent to each piece with these figures, instead they seek to enhance the atmosphere in his works.

Caffieri skirts sentimentality by grounding his works with realism much in the French spirit.

His hazy diffusion of light can invoke sun-kissed bliss upon simmering sands on summer’s days, and the misty, gruelling work of a harbour in the rain. He blends broader, energetic brushstrokes with careful, detailed work to invoke both the spanning beauty of nature, and its minutia.

Caffieri saw great success in the exhibition and promotion of his works. He exhibited both in France, with the Salon des Society des Artistes Francais, and in Britain. His works were shown at the Royal Academy over a period of over 25 years. He was also a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.

Caffieri continued this close association with the British art world even when he moved permanently to Boulogne-Sur-Mer in 1897. He continued to exhibit, holding a number of solo exhibitions at the Continental Gallery in London, which focussed on contemporary European art. He would also hold a joint exhibition with British artist Arthur Henry Knighton-Hammond (1875–1970) in 1906.

Caffieri’s works remained popular well into the 20th century, probably encouraged by interest in the Cornwall-based Newlyn School, which also focussed on seaside scenes. A number of his works were reproduced in engravings.

Caffieri himself also turned to arts education during his career. He took on a number of students, including female artist Anna Maria Guérin (fl. 1860s-1890s). There have also been some suggestions that he worked as a correspondent during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878, although there is little evidence to support this.

Hector Caffieri passed away in 1932 in his beloved Boulogne-Sur-Mer after a successful trans-Channel career. His works were celebrated both in France and Britain and particularly enjoyed by a British audience who adored his gloriously lit, wonderfully celebratory works.


Born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, Britain.


Exhibited at the Society of British Artists.

c. 1873

Moved to London, Britain.


Exhibited frequently at the Royal Academy.


Elected a member of the Society of British Artists.


Elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.


Exhibited at the Salon des Society des Artistes Francais, Paris, France.


Moved to Boulogne-Sur-Mer, France.


Solo exhibition held at the Continental Gallery, London, Britain.


Solo exhibition held at the Continental Gallery, London, Britain.


Solo exhibition held at Dore Gallery, London.


Joint exhibition with Arthur Henry Knighton-Hammond at Tankerville House, Buxton, Britain.


Retired as a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.


Died in Boulogne-Sur-Mer, France.

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