Green, Amos (1735-1807)

Green, Amos (1735-1807)
Green, Amos (1735-1807)

Amos Green was a British painter of still lifes and landscapes. Initially training under Birmingham printer John Baskerville, he’s best known for his sketching tours with wife Harriet.

Humble, acquiescent, desperately in love - Amos Green treasured life’s gentler environs. Exceedingly respectful of the old masters yet imbuing his own delicate works with a sense of heartfelt immediacy. He lived for the moment, travelled extensively across the British Isles, and left a quiet legacy of elegant drawings.

Green’s passion was nature herself, the leafy boughs of ancient oaks bristling in dense woodlands, the craggy peaks of Snowdonia, and the dramatic vistas of the Lake District. Despite encountering various ills, his spirit was perpetually elevated when immersed in British topography. When into his Autumn years, he found a companion in Harriet Lister who shared his adoration for the natural world - the two became inseparable in a tale of true Georgian romance.

Following his death in 1807, Harriet wrote incessantly to abate her grief. Her story later became his memoirs and we’ve referenced them below.

Early Years

Born in Halesowen, Shropshire, Green’s formative years were spent at the family home. His parents were involved in ‘country business’ and he had three surviving brothers. They were presumably of some means as the eldest achieved a professional vocation as a commissioner of excise in Litchfield, while another became an artist in London.

Clearly blessed with an ability for drawing, Green travelled to Birmingham where he was apprenticed to the well-known printer, John Baskerville. His occupation involved painting trays and boxes - Baskerville was highly regarded for ‘japanning’ and papier-mâché. The work soon became tiresome for an imaginative mind, as described by Harriet.

Mr. Green was intended for business in Birmingham, and was placed with the well-known Baskerville. Here the pencil was put into his hand to paint waiters, boxes, &c. having no other model than the miserable paintings usually seen on such things. The situation was not more congenial to his genius than to his feelings; but, under circumstances the most depressing to both, his native character broke out, and procured him the notice and regard of some distinguished characters, and of persons in a superior line of life to his own.

William Shenstone & The Deanes

One such ‘distinguished character’ was the esteemed poet William Shenstone (1714-1763) who admired Green’s skill for ‘flower pieces’ along with his careful eye for decorative craft. Shenstone is also regarded as an important forerunner in the development of landscape gardening.

Shenstone cultivated his acquaintance, and often had him with him at the Leasowes. Mr. Green's talent for painting appeared so strongly under every disadvantage, that Shenstone wished him to pursue it as a profession; but he could not think of it. The bashfulness of his nature would never have allowed him to solicit patronage, and he felt that he could paint only according to the dictates of genius, and not in compliance with fashion or the direction of others.

Green was modest and most obliging, which perhaps held him back in these early encounters. But due to the persistence of close acquaintances, he pursued his vocation with greater endeavour. Another was Anthony Deane, a wealthy patron of the arts, who lived nearby. Deane was so struck by the artist’s ability that he invited him into his family.

When the younger Mr. Deane married, it was agreed without hesitation, that he should continue as a member of their family. Mrs. Deane had never seen him, but the idea she had conceived of his character was sufficient. The most perfect friendship grew between them: he loved and admired her with enthusiasm, and she considered him as a peculiar comfort of her life.

Before long, much to the Deanes’ delight, he’d produced two fine copies of works by Jan van Huysum to decorate their new home at Bergholt in Suffolk.

Studying The Masters

Green diligently studied the old masters at every opportunity, paying close attention to the Dutch and Flemish still life painters.

In occasional visits to London, alone, or with Mr. Deane, he took opportunities of studying the works of the best masters. He acquired an extensive acquaintance among the first artists, and gradually formed a taste that was founded on general principles, and never became subservient to fashion or to names.

Flower-pieces were the first efforts of his pencil, and he particularly studied the works of Baptiste (probably Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer) and Vanhuyssum (Jan van Huysum). He copied two celebrated pictures of the latter for Mr. Deane; a work of great labour, which was rewarded by its success, for they were considered as being equal to the originals. In fruit he particularly excelled; the transparency of his grapes and currants, was peculiar to himself; and the taste and fancy, the unity and harmony, displayed in his compositions, give an interest to his fruit and flowers, rarely to be met with.

Claude Lorrain & Neo-Classical Landscapes

During the late 18th century, the aristocracy sought landscapes that alluded to classical ideals, such as those by eminent French artists Claude Lorrain (1600-1682) and Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665). When visiting the impressive country seats of acquaintances, Green was undoubtedly inspired by their electrifying grandeur and celebration of nature.

Landscape was the last branch of painting that he attempted, and he was encouraged to it by his friends Mrs. M. Hartley and Mrs. Harriet Bowdler, who, observing the freedom of his pencil in drawing landscape from nature and invention, urged him to try its powers in oil-colours. He soon produced pictures of great beauty, and at last acquired a fine tone of colouring.


The dates for Green’s spell in Bergholt, Suffolk, are not clear but it’s entirely possible that he resided there in 1776 when a certain John Constable was born. He might’ve known the family, which is intriguing to consider. Like Green, Constable was transfixed by the natural world. His aptitude for painting was derived from his adulation of the environment.

Bath & Gardening

Green undertook a range of decorative tasks for the Deane family including landscaping the gardens at their Bergholt, Clifton and Bath residences. In his memories, Harriet recalled how he became a little disgruntled when having completed a substantial remodelling they decided to once again move home.

But when finally settled in Bath, Green produced his masterpiece.

During a short visit to Bath in 1809, after the loss of Mr. Green, it was my chance to have a lodging which overlooked these gardens, and I had a pensive pleasure in contemplating them, particularly a weeping willow of great size and beauty, which he had planted.

As a gentleman, he appreciated the arts in all its forms.

Though Mr. Green was more particularly devoted to painting, from being a proficient in the art, it had no undue influence over his mind; he had the highest relish for books, and for the sister arts. He received exquisite pleasure from music, and had a nice and discriminating ear. He once played a little on the violin, but could not bestow sufficient practice to attain excellence, and soon gave it up. He delighted in fine poetry, and Mr. Deane told me that nothing could exceed his quick and intuitive perception of its beauties.

First Encounter

It’s unclear when Harriet first set eyes on Amos Green but presumably it came later in life. He was 18 years older, probably into his mid-50s, and blessed with accrued wisdom coupled with exceptional taste.

When I first became acquainted in this family, Mr. Deane lived on the High Crescent, called Lansdown Place. His rooms, which had the finest light, were filled with pictures, chiefly painted by Mr. Green, but among them was a fine landscape by Claude, two excellent sea-pieces by Vandervelde, a good copy of a fine landscape by Vernet, &c. &c. They were admirably arranged, carefully placed in the lights particularly adapted to them, and at the height that suited them best. This had a wonderful effect, so generally felt and acknowledged, that everybody at Bath who could get access to Mr. Green, consulted him in hanging their pictures.

Blossoming Romance

Bound by a mutual appreciation of nature, gentle sensibilities and a fondness for the arts, the two were smitten. Keen to explore the Isles, undertake cross-country adventures, and delight in a flourishing romance. However, in true Jane Austen style, their union wasn’t straightforward. Harriet’s mother was entirely disapproving - Green was significantly older and confessed to an ‘attachment’, possibly a prior marriage.

The couple has resigned themselves to a life without the support of family but pressed on, committed to evolving the relationship. They married in 1796 and Green, despite his most congenial demeanour, was never fully accepted.


At every opportunity, the pair escaped to sketch. Sharing observations on their tranquil walks, pausing to contemplate nature’s bounty. Both sought solace in rural environments and treasured the sublimity of God’s creation.

As the spring advanced, Mr. Green led me in our walks to the sides of brooks and banks, to observe the fresh flowers and early progress of vegetation: he taught me new pleasures, and I had great delight in these pure and tranquil enjoyments, so congenial to my own mind, so uncommon among men. He spoke to me of the delights of his childhood and early youth, in which he could seldom meet with a companion; but so strong was the bent of his inclination that even in childhood he preferred solitary rambles, and his pleasures were generally of a pensive cast.

The couple savoured each trip, arranging their drawings in a series of books, which were annotated.

We arranged our sketches on a regular plan, and placing them in books employed much of our evenings.

In 1799, they planned their first ‘sketching tour’ to the majestic Lake District.

At length the time approached, which was to realise a plan that I had long anticipated with eagerness. It was our intention to make a northern tour, and to take up our abode for some time, among the lakes of Cumberland and Westmoreland. With all Mr. Green's high relish for scenery, his fine imagination, and inventive genius, he had never visited the more wild and sublime scenes of nature; he had never seen a lake, a mountain, or a waterfall, of any consequence.

Except the tour into Devonshire, which I have mentioned in the beginning of our acquaintance, Mr. Deane had never taken any with him; and when he travelled alone, it was always to visit his friends. It may well be conceived that I could not have a greater delight, than in witnessing the first emotions of such a mind, when the most romantic and sublime objects of creation were offered to its view.

We were enchanted with the situation; and, for the first time, experienced the pleasure of employing our pencils together in a romantic country.

The following year, they ventured south to breathe in a dizzying array of views - Blandford, Warminster, Fonthill Abbey, Wardour Castle, Weymouth, Dorchester, Portland Island, Chesiltown, Mongewell, Nuneham, Oxford, Warwick Castle, Kenilworth Castle, Forest of Needwood and Matlock.

And then Wales - Conwy, Llanrwst, Capel Curig, Caernarfon, Tanybwlch, Dolgelly, Barmouth, Cader Idris, Bala, Glynduffis, Llangollen, Llandysilio, Valle Crucis, Wynnstay, Nantybela, and Gresford.

Both were enthralled. Lost in nature, lost in each other.

He possessed every requisite to make a travelling companion delightful: nothing escaped his notice, from the grandest to the most minute object, and he discriminated as accurately as he felt intensely. His whole mind was tuned for enjoyment; whatever vexatious thing arose never dwelt upon him, and he knew not a fretful moment.

Sombre Reflection

Harriet was particularly forthright with her opinions on deforestation. Writing at length on the benefits of experiencing woodlands, forests and peaks first-hand. At times melancholy, she loathed the pursuit of wealth over natural experiences that elevated the spirit.

Following a trip to the picturesque Forest of Needwood, which was set for deforestation, she wrote:

I cannot quit the forest without making some general reflections. When accustomed to the face of a country where civilization is carried beyond perfection, where the luxuries of life diminish its necessaries, and the idea of turning all to profit pervades everything, it is very soothing to the mind to escape from such fetters, and view nature in her primaeval state; and I cannot help thinking the human character suffers much from so seldom having opportunities of doing it. The best poets speak the language of nature, and show what is the effect of grand and simple scenery on the human heart; and we see evident marks that the Creator has formed it to derive salutary pleasure from that source.

His benevolence is strongly displayed in clothing inanimate nature with a profusion of beauty that furnishes a perpetual source of innocent gratification. When we learn to look with indifference or satisfaction on the destruction of natural beauty, for the sake of wealth, something of genuine character is tarnished, and we lose simple factitious enjoyments. When we lose simple and natural pleasure, we lose something still more valuable, we lose that salutary influence on the heart which the Creator has annexed to every pleasure that He has implanted there.


Drawn to the delights of the Lake District, the couple purchased a house in Ambleside. But with Green’s health failing, it was unclear how long they could reside there. So rather than consider their life together, he saw the move as securing a future for his beloved, buoyed by her continuing happiness.

Much as Mr. Green was delighted with it, he said he should not think of improving it for himself, and he thought of it chiefly as a place for me. In an evening walk in a favourite distant field, while the surrounding scenery was under the most glorious influence, we talked on the charm of mutually feeling what is felt by so few. He said how utterly lost he should be without his dear companion, he could not bear to pursue the theme. I believe it would have been so, and Providence spared him the trial.

Whatever he did, he said "he felt as if done for me when he should be gone: it was so in painting; it would be so in forming this place: he often had a pensive pleasure in thinking of my cherishing such memorials; and he saw me in his mind's eye, and thought he should never be forgot! It is a little thing to say that I answered with tears, "never, never!" No promise was ever more fully realised.

In 1807, Amos Green passed away. Harriet was by his side still bringing sketches to lift his spirits.


Amos Green produced numerous oils, watercolours and drawings throughout his life but his flower pieces rarely surface. Of the work in general circulation, the majority are drawings produced during his marriage - when the pair undertook sketching trips or joint excursions. As such, due to their similar quality, Harriet’s drawings are often mistaken for her husband’s and vice-versa. And rather tragically, the books they produced containing curated collections of their studies were generally broken up for individual resale so any relevant inscriptions have been lost.

But perhaps, in a strange twist of fate, it’s appropriate that the works are forever indistinguishable. After all, the Greens were inseparable in life - and now tightly entwined for eternity.

Read the complete memoirs of Amos Green.


Incorporated Society of Artists.

Public Collections

British Museum, V&A, Dudley Museum and Art Gallery, Government Art Collection, The Huntington Art Museum.



Born in Halesowen, near Birmingham.

Apprenticed to John Baskerville, a Birmingham printer.


Two still lifes shown at the Incorporated Society of Artists.


Shown at the Incorporated Society of Artists.


Shown at the Incorporated Society of Artists.

Moved to Bergholt, Suffolk.

Both John Constable and Amos Green knew Sir George Beaumont, an arbiter of taste and a keen patron of the arts.

Moved to Bath.


Married Harriet Lister.

Moved to Bridlington, Yorkshire.


Undertook a sketching tour of the Lake District together with wife Harriet. Visited Ulverston, Furness Abbey, Coniston, Ambleside, Keswick, Penrith and Appleby. Also travelled to Barnard Castle and Bishopwearmouth.


Travelled to Bath. Undertook a sketching tour of the south together with wife Harriet. Visited Blandford, Warminster, Fonthill Abbey, Wardour Castle, Weymouth, Dorchester, Portland Island, Chesiltown, Mongewell, Nuneham, Oxford, Warwick Castle, Kenilworth Castle, Forest of Needwood and Matlock.


Visited Gilling Castle, Whitby and Scarborough.
Undertook a sketching tour of North Wales together with wife Harriet. Visited Conwy, Llanrwst, Capel Curig, Caernarfon, Tanybwlch, Dolgelly, Barmouth, Cader Idris, Bala, Glynduffis, Llangollen, Llandysilio, Valle Crucis, Wynnstay, Nantybela, and Gresford.
Visited Filey, Yorkshire.


Visited Bolton Abbey, Ambleside, Keswick, Bowness, Matlock, Forest of Needwood, Bath, Yoxall Lodge, Lichfield, Ludlow, Ross, Chepstow, and Derby.


Undertook a sketching tour of Scotland together with wife Harriet. Visited Edinburgh, Loch Katrine, Blair, Oban and Glasgow.
Visited Carlisle, Keswick, Ambleside and Kirby Lonsdale.


Visited Bath, Charlcombe Valley, Blandford, New Forest, Southampton, Netley Abbey, West Cowes, Ryde, Bonchurch, Yarmouth, Malvern, Duddeston, Halesowen, Hafod, Aberystwyth, Machynlleth, Dolgelly, Caernarfon, Lake of Llanberis, Capel Curig, Ogwan, Bangor, Whitby and Mulgrave.


Visited Ambleside, Coniston, Keswick and Borrowdale.


Visited Bath, Forest of Needwood and Ambleside, where the couple purchased a property.


Died in York.

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