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Who exactly was local historical icon Richard Bonington?

PICTURED: A portrait of Arnold-born artist Richard Bonington

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Who exactly was local historical icon Richard Bonington?

Arnold-born Bonington was one of most influential British painters of all time

He has a local theatre, a school and two roads named after him, but just who was Richard Bonington? Local historian Bob Massey tells us more about this local icon..

Richard Parkes Bonington was an English Romantic landscape painter, who moved to France at the age of 14 and can also be considered as a French artist, and an intermediary bringing aspects of English style to France.

One of the most influential British artists of his time, the facility of his style was inspired by the old masters, yet was entirely modern in its application.

Bonington was born in Arnold, Nottingham on October 25, 1802.

The only child of Richard Bonington and Eleanor Parkes; his first home was a house in High Street, Arnold . The house is still there today and known as Bonington House. It is presently used as a social club and is also the base for Arnold Local History Group meetings.

After Richard was born, his mother opened a school in Arnold. After a while she transferred the school and family into the centre of Nottingham. Nothing is known about Richard’s own schooling, but he is reputed to have been skilled at drawing from a young age and also loved acting.

His father was Governor of Nottingham Gaol but was forced to tender his resignation for reading to the prisoners the forbidden doctrines of the revolutionary, Tom Paine – which promoted diasm, which is a belief that a god doesn’t interfere directly in the world, and also free thought.

His mother’s school also failed and the Boningtons were forced to try something new.

They decided to set up a lace making factory. As a result of the social unrest affecting businesses following the introduction of the factory system into the Nottingham lace and hosiery industries, the Boningtons decided to emigrate and try their luck in France.

TALENTED: A watercolour by Bonington titled Landscape Near Quilleboeuf

In 1817, the family moved firstly to Calais, then on to Paris the following year.

Richard did not like the factory and preferred painting and sketching. Against his father’s wishes, Richard became a student of Ecote des Beaux Arts in Paris  from 1819 to 1822, where he was taught precision drawing. Here, he learned the art of watercolour painting, his response to nature, and a taste for coastal scenes from Louis Francia.

In 1821, Bonington made an extended tour of Normandy in the company of a fellow student, Alexandre-Marie Colin, and exhibited watercolours at two Paris dealers. They were admired by renowned French painters Corot, Delacroix, and Gros.

He first exhibited at the Salon in 1822.  Bonington then toured Belgium in 1823 and spent much of 1824 at Dunkirk, exhibiting his first oils at the Salon that year.

Bonnington went on to share a studio with Delacroix whilst staying in Paris.

Bonington travelled to Italy for eleven weeks in 1826 with Baron Rivet, a wealthy patron whom he had met through Delacroix. He spent a month in Venice where he worked with feverish energy. The rest of his short life was taken up with handling a mounting pressure of work, much of it commissioned. All this was in the face of increasing weakness induced by tuberculosis, made worse by sunstroke

At the end of 1827, he moved from his studio in the house of Jules-Robert Auguste, a wealthy collector of oriental costume, to a larger one in the Rue Saint Lazare.

Bonington made visits to London to see his dealers in 1827 and 1828, exhibiting at the Royal Academy of Arts in both years. This exhibition being his first showing of his courtly history subjects there and later at the Salon in 1828.

He was obliged due to ill health to cancel a summer sketching trip in Normandywith Paul Huet. He later returned to London a weak and dying man.

Bonington passed away, aged just 26, on September 23, 1828 and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery where his mother was also laid to rest.  The Nottingham Museum at the castle, has but two of his many pictures.

There are two statues of Richard in the Nottingham area. The first is a bust  in the entrance to the Boningto n Theatre in Arnold and the second, a statue in the entrance to the Gedling Borough Council offices in Arnold .

He also has a school, the Richard Bonington Junior School and two roads, Bonington Drive and Bonington Street, in the area, named after him.

You can read more articles by Bob Massey at his website:

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