James Baker Pyne

(1800 - 1870)

One of the few artists of any reputation to come from Bristol, Pyne’s family opposed his artistic ambitions and forced him to study law. However, he taught himself to paint in his free time and on attaining his majority, gave up his legal studies to teach painting. He quickly gained a reputation as a skilled teacher; one of his earliest pupils being William James Muller (1812-1845) whose father was the curator of the local museum.

In 1828 Pyne sent his first painting to the British Institute exhibitions, but concentrated on teaching and it was not until 1835, when he moved to London to establish a studio in Dorset Square, that the London public were to see his work again. From then onwards, he exhibited almost entirely at Suffolk Street, showing one hundred and ninety-four paintings there in all and he subsequently became President of the Society of British Artists. Occasionally he showed his paintings at the Royal Academy and the British Institute. He continued to teach, another noted pupil being Henry Dawson (1811-1878), who described Pyne in his memoirs as “One of the pleasantest men I have ever spoken to, so free and kind that we were on good terms in five minutes”.

Having concentrated on painting the British landscape until the mid-1830’s, spending time in the West Country, Lake District and North Wales, it was about 1838 when he made his first visit to Europe and this was to become a regular pilgrimage. The Alps, the Rhine, Tyrol, the Northern Italian Lakes were all depicted with a radiance and magnificence similar to the work of Joseph Mallord William Turner, RA (1775-1851). But unlike Turner, Pyne maintained attention to detail in his work and continuing to paint the British landscape as well as the mountainous country of Europe, his style remained constant, described by M. H. Grant as “a Master who, not outraging nature, gave her a new aspect, one so genuinely seen by himself as to be instantly appreciated by others”.

His works can be found in museums in: Birmingham; Blackburn; Bristol; Cardiff; Leicester; Liverpool; London, Tate Britain, Victoria and Albert Museum; Manchester; Melbourne; Sheffield; Sunderland and Sydney.

Bibliography: M. H. Grant “The Old English Landscape Painters” and
“Dictionary of British Landscape Painters”
Algernon Graves, FSA “The Royal Academy of Arts”