Sir George Clausen

(1852 - 1944)

Born in London on 18th April 1852, George Clausen was to become one of the finest English Impressionist painters.

The son of George Clausen Senior, a painter and sculptor of Danish descent George Clausen studied at the South Kensington Schools 1867 - 1870, winning gold medals for design in 1868 and 1870. He subsequently worked in the studio of Royal Academician Edwin Long (1825-1891) and in 1875 Clausen visited Holland and Belgium returning to London to exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1876 for the first time. Clausen moved from Fulham in south London to Hampstead, an affluent artistic suburb, and in 1879 to 1880 painted a series of street scenes set around Haverstock Hill, which are amongst his most memorable works.

In contrast to the prevailing fashion of academic works by the likes of Frederick Lord Leighton (1830-1896) or his former teacher Edwin Long, Clausen has sought a contemporary mood illustrating his familiarity with the works of James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902) and Jean Beraud’s (1849-1936) Paris street scenes, but with a distinctly English setting.

Clausen was soon to abandon town life for one depicting the backbreaking existence of agricultural workers. He studied at the Academie Julien, Paris, under William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) in 1883 becoming influenced, like so many British artists of the period, by Jules Bastien Lepage (1848-1884), but perhaps more so by the works of Jean François Millet (1814-1875). The 1880’s saw Clausen in Brittany and England painting, with Henry Herbert La Thangue (1859-1929), scenes of rural life, depicting the ‘nobility of labour’. However, his ‘plein-air’ subjects became infused with light coinciding with his increasing enthusiasm for Monet and the Impressionists. As an original member of the New English Art Club founded in 1886, Clausen would have been familiar with Monet’s work, exhibited there in the 1880’s.

In 1889 Clausen’s “Girl at the Gate” was purchased by the Chantrey Bequest (Tate Gallery), he was elected ARA in 1895, RWS in 1898 and to the Royal Academy in 1908. Clausen was a highly regarded Professor of Painting at the RA Schools from 1904-1906 and later a Director of the Schools. He was knighted in 1927 and continued to paint into the 1940’s. He died in Cold Ash, Newbury on 22nd November 1944.

Clausen will be remembered as a ‘plein-air’ painter of rural light, though denying that he was a social realist, who with his fascination with the effects of light became a true Impressionist.

His works can be found in museums in: Bradford; Bristol; Bury; Cardiff; Glasgow; London, Tate Britain; New Haven, Yale Centre for British Art and Melbourne.