British artist Eden Upton Eddis was celebrated both for his dignified and pious portraits of key figures of the 19th century, and his ebullient depictions of children enjoying the innocence of youth.
Eddis’ artistic prospects were clear from an early age. He attended the popular preparatory art school of painter Henry Sass (1788-1844) before moving on to the Royal Academy Schools. Here he recalled tutelage being given by Turner, and would do well in the exhibitions held, winning a gold medal at the age of 16.
Whilst his father’s death is said to have caused regrets for Eddis in cutting his education short, it seems it did not put him at a disadvantage once he had completed his studies. Eddis was able to build up an esteemed career, predominantly as a portrait painter. Friend and patron Lord Overstone aided him in gaining some favourable commissions, overseeing Eddis' entry into the Athenaeum Club, established as a meeting place for those with intellectual and artistic interests.
From politician Lord Macaulay (1800-1859) to sculptor Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey (1781-1841), Eddis captured a dignity and poised humanity about his sitters. With a buttery soft realism, Eddis positions his predominantly male sitters against darker backgrounds, lending gravitas and drawing attention towards them. Their faces are licked with shadows which lend definition, their eyes the beating hearts of each piece. Eddis combines a refined, discerning style with an ability to infuse uniqueness into each sitter. Whilst poses are similar throughout his oeuvre, he captures character by adapting to each personality. An eye might twinkle or a pose might demonstrate authority. No one portrait is the same.
As well as the weighted dignity of his portraits, Eddis had a penchant for the spirit of youth. His many paintings of children, rosy-cheeked and vibrantly dressed, proved very popular with the British public. They enjoyed the bubbling energy and innocence which summoned a sentimental, idyllic view of life. A portrait of a young girl titled ‘Going to Work’ was particularly popular and is indicative of Eddis’ painterly passions. He combines a fascination with the innocence of youth with a love of nature. The girl is portrayed with a crisp, bright realism. Her expensive silk dress is crinkled and tucked up for playing. The shimmering azure colouring reflects the sea beyond and marries the subject with the background.
Eddis was noted for being ‘an intense lover of nature.’ His many paintings of children playing often feature his much-loved Surrey in the background. Indeed, before focussing on the perhaps more financially sound subject of portraiture, Eddis had intended to be a landscape painter.
It was to Surrey Eddis moved in his later life, retiring from his successful career. Not only had he cultivated a large client base from his portraits, Eddis had also seen success in the Royal Academy, exhibiting for 50 consecutive years! Even in retirement, however, he still remained an important member of the art world.
Retaining his membership to the Athenaeum Club, he was, in his latter years, known as its ‘father.’ Eddis was also a member of the Artists’ General Benevolent Association, which offered support to struggling artists and their families.
Today, there are over 100 works by Eddis in the National Portrait Gallery, as well as numerous pieces residing in public collections across the country.
Born in Newington Green, London, Britain.
Began studying at the Royal Academy.
Awarded a silver medal from the Royal Academy.
Married Elizabeth Brown.
Exhibited frequently at the Royal Academy.
Wife Elizabeth Died.
Died in Shalford, Surrey, Britain.