Edmund Bristow

The Old Warren House, Bracknell, Berkshire

Edmund Bristow

The Old Warren House, Bracknell, Berkshire

This early-19th-century oil painting by British artist Edmund Bristow (1787-1876) depicts a farm known as the ‘Old Warren House’ in Bracknell, Berkshire.

Painted in 1820, this fine portrayal of rural life was produced when Bristow was enjoying the height of his success. It was an important year with three of his works shown at the Royal Academy and various Royal patrons hounding him for commissions. The Old Warren House was a short carriage ride from his home and known by locals as a waypoint when travelling through the forest. Information is scarce regarding the farm itself aside from several advertisements between 1834 and 1838 regarding the sale of oak timber. An ad in 1838 reads:

“Superior oak timber and bark, Billingbear Park, Berks, to be sold by auction on Friday, June 29th, 1838, at the New Warren House (the 31st mile-stone on the Forest Road), at 2 o’clock, in lots. 296 Oak and 1 Elm Trees, felled and lying near the Old Warren House, well suited for navy or other purposes, a great portion being of handsome growth and large dimensions; together with about 60 tons of very superior Oak Bark, now housed in Dutch barns at the Old Warren Farm.

The above is advantageously situated for removal, being close to good hard roads, and within three miles of Water Oakley Wharf. A Liberal credit is allowed. Deposit and security required. James Graves, near the New Warren House, and James Groves, Waltham Lodge, will show the lots, of whom catalogues may be had ten days previous to the sale.”

It’s possible that the rustic timber-framed building shown is the ‘Old Warren Farm’ referred to in the ad. But it’s not clear whether its residents also worked as woodsmen.

Bristow’s attention to detail is extraordinary. Note the delicacy of the large cabbage held proudly under the boy’s arm and the view through the upper windows. The figures are also a particular success with their expressions creating a narrative.

Bristow was an extraordinary talent yet, due to his stubborn independence, he died in relative obscurity. His rugged rural scenes were popular with the aristocracy but led to malaise due to the vigorous demands of his clientele.

His popularity was in part due to his location - he was born in Eton and worked predominantly in Windsor. But also it reflected his precocious mastery of capturing the rustic environs of working families. Several of his works are held in the Royal Collection.

Signed mid-left, above the donkey, and held within a later frame.

Previously sold at auction for £3,000 and also appeared at Sotheby’s in 1997 with an estimate of £5,000-£7,000.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 30½” x 25½” / 77cm x 65cm
Year of creation: 1820
Condition: Artwork presents well. Fine craquelure but the paint is stable. Frame with some light wear.
Artist’s auction maximum: £29,000

Edmund Bristow

Edmund Bristow

Edmund Bristow was a British painter of animals and genre subjects. His rusticated portrayals of Victorian rural life served a baying aristocratic clientele, eager for his canny observations. His patrons included the Countess of Rosslyn, Duke of Clarence, later King William IV, and Princess Elizabeth. He exhibited numerous times at the Royal Academy, the British Institution, and the Society of British Artists. Several of his works are held in the Royal Collection.

Learn more about Edmund Bristow in our directory.

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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