Joshua Anderson Hague was a pioneering landscape artist of 19th-century Britain. Through the span of his long career, he worked to loosen the tight binds of academic artistic education in favour of more experimental styles and approaches.
His hometown of Manchester would offer him the seeds of his artistic ventures. Through both his studies at the School of Art and his budding friendships with his artistic peers, Hague began to cultivate an artistic understanding and passion. These seeds began to sprout as Hague became the leader of a group of artists who became known as the ‘Manchester School.’
Inspired by the Barbizon painters in France, this group were excited by the potentials of realism in studies of nature. They believed that greater fidelity in art could be found from depicting nature as it was, with a spirit and emotion, rather than the more rigid, structured strictures of classical academic art, as was taught at the major institutions.
Such pioneering efforts were greatly rewarded. The group began to bloom in prominence in the 1870s, and Hague was growing for himself a respected reputation. ‘He paints in a manner that is absolutely his own,’ critics praised. They called him ‘defiant’ to the ‘pastors and masters in art,’ painting him as the brave leader of this new school.
His work, they said, ‘irresistibly arrests attention.’ Indeed, his loose brushstrokes add a dramatism, clouds are whipped up and plastered across azure skies. His effusive use of colours adds a liveliness to the movement of water, the swaying of grass. His pastoral scenes of the British countryside hold a ‘stamp of genius,’ capturing life whilst also instilling it with a vivacity of painterly prowess.
As Hague’s prominence spread so too did where he sowed his seeds of ingenuity. He became a member of the New English Art Club, who desired to hold annual exhibitions displaying more modern styles of art to rival the Royal Academy. He also exhibited prolifically at galleries and institutions up and down Britain.
Along with many of his ‘Manchester School’ peers, in the 1870s he moved to Wales. Since the tradition of travelling to the continent to accrue painterly inspiration had become more difficult owing to unrest in Europe, Wales, with its wild landscapes, offered a favourable alternative. Here, Hague would help establish the Royal Cambrian Academy. Backed by Queen Victoria, Hague hoped to make art education more widely available.
Hague was as passionate as he was pioneering. Artistic ability ran in his family’s blood. His brother, John Haughton Hague (1842-1934), was also a painter. Both found much accomplishment in their craft and Hague would leave behind a legacy of spreading the new styles of art sweeping Europe across Britain.
These seeds were planted and they grew with abundance. His works can now be seen in numerous art galleries across Britain.
Born in Rusholme, Manchester.
Studied at the Manchester School of Art.
Married Sarah Henshall.
Moved to Crossens, Southport.
Became a member of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts.
Moved to Tywyn, North Wales.
Founded the Royal Cambrian Academy. Appointed Vice President.
Elected a member of the Society of British Artists.
Became a member of the New English Art Club.
Elected to the Royal Institute of Oil Painters.
Moved to Deganwy, North Wales.
Died in Deganwy.