Edmund John Niemann was a highly prolific and greatly celebrated landscape artist. His extremely large portfolio covered scenes across the length and breadth of Britain. His most famous works are those depicting the river Thames.
Niemann was the son of a German banker. He followed in his father’s footsteps for a time, working as a clerk in Lloyds bank. In 1839, however, he decided to give up the pen and the bank records and take up the paintbrush and pursue art. Within a matter of years, he was exhibiting prolifically at the Royal Academy and the British Institution amongst other places. It is remarkable that no record remains of his receiving proper training, for his works are extremely accomplished. A portrait of Niemann potentially points to some artistic links, however. Niemann was painted by Edward Henry Corbould (1815-1905) in 1852. This could suggest the two were friends and that Niemann socialised within artistic circles, which would surely influence and encourage his work.
Niemann’s greatest inspiration seems to be taken, however, from the work of Constable and Turner. These two formidable artists were the frontrunners in a quest to establish landscape painting as a distinguished and worthy artistic subject in the 19th-Century. The romantic, dramatic landscapes these two artists painted are very much evoked in Niemann’s work.
Clouds threaten craggy moorland or a ragged coastline. A hazy sky illuminates a ruined castle.
Niemann was praised by critics for his ‘exquisitely tender’ touch and his ‘enchanting’ burgeoning of atmosphere. The leading art magazine of the time, the ‘Art Journal,’ was quick to praise his paintings of the Thames and declare them to rival those of the masters. He was also praised for his composition and perspective, making Niemann a truly rounded painter.
From Wales to Hampstead, Yorkshire to Salisbury, Niemann turned his skilled and emotional brush to the enigmatic spirit of Britain. His work evokes a romantic sense of a historic and legend-filled country, whilst centring itself, too, on a healthy dose of naturalism. Niemann often painted outdoors. His devotion to the newly forming appreciation for landscape saw him at the forefront of the developments of British art. He became a trustee to the ‘Free Exhibition,’ established to celebrate new approaches in art. He was an esteemed and valued member of the British art scene.
A number of his works reside in the collections of galleries up and down the country, including Wolverhampton, Leeds, and Glasgow.
Born in Islington, London.
Left employment at Lloyds Bank to pursue art. Moved to High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
Married Caroline Matilda Cooper.
Exhibited extensively at the Royal Academy, British Institution, and Suffolk Street galleries.
Returned to London for the foundation of the ‘Free Exhibition,’ later the Portland Gallery.
Became trustee and secretary for the Portland Gallery.
Died in Brixton, London.