6. Edward Armitage

Edward Armitage (1817-96) was the eldest of the eight children born to James Armitage and was named after his grandfather.

Photograph of Edward Armitage taken from the book ‘Men of Mark’ published in 1878.
Photograph of Edward Armitage taken from the book ‘Men of Mark’ published in 1878.

In 1837 his father enrolled his talented artistic son at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, under the tutelage of the eminent history painter Paul Delaroche. Edward specialised in biblical and historical scenes. In 1843 he returned to London and entered the competition to decorate the new Houses of Parliament in Westminster. His design, Julius Caesar’s First Invasion of Britain, secured one of three first-prizes of £300. This success greatly enhanced his reputation and in the subsequent competitions he won £200 for his cartoon The Spirit of Religion (1845) and a £500 first-prize for his oil painting The Battle of Meanee (1847), which Queen Victoria purchased for £400. He executed two frescoes in the poet’s gallery of the upper waiting-hall at Westminster. In 1848 he exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy where he later became a member. His inherited wealth enabled him to pursue his career without actively seeking commissions.

In 1857 there was a major uprising in India against Imperial rule and many British soldiers, women and children were massacred. This rebellion or ‘war of independence’ was brutally crushed by the army, much to the delight of the general public, who avidly read the latest information in the popular press. In 1858 Edward produced a colossal painting, Retribution, which was presented to Leeds Corporation for display in the new Town Hall. In 1888 the painting was hung in the Queen’s Room of the new Art Gallery.

Retribution 1858

Retribution (1858)

The woman represents Britannia and the cowering tiger, India, now in a vulnerable position. The slaughtered British, victims of India’s tiger, are the reason for Britannia coming to seek revenge. The sword is symbolic of Britain’s power. Leeds Museums and Galleries

Edward occasionally visited Farnley Hall and is said to have painted a fresco entitled ‘Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter’ on the walls of the Drawing Room. From 1875 to 1882 he served as professor of painting at the Royal Academy. He died on 13 October 1897.

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