Edward Clifford

Watercolors by Edward Clifford

Edward Clifford was associated with the Aesthetic Movement in England, an intellectual and artistic movement emphasizing nature and beauty more than social or political themes in the arts and literature. Clifford was also honorary Secretary of the Church Army, the evangelizing branch of the Church of England, which did missionary work among the slums of England.

Born in Bristol, England in 1844, Clifford studied at the Royal Academy Schools. He painted landscapes, portraits and historical subjects in oil and watercolor and had many aristocratic patrons. From 1877 to 1892, Clifford exhibited at the Royal Academy, Society of British Artists, and Institute of Painters in Watercolors, the Grosvenor Gallery, the New Gallery and elsewhere. 

Clifford’s Royal Academy paintings are conventional Victorian portraits: but, at the Grosvenor Gallery and elsewhere, he showed Biblical and allegorical scenes. His Biblical paintings show the influence of symbolic painter Holman Hunt, one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Clifford was also influenced by Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones and the group of artists who gathered and exhibited at the Dudley gallery in London. 

Often visiting India and the Kashmir region to learn methods of controlling leprosy, Clifford later traveled to Hawaii in 1888. While visiting the leper colony located in Kalaupapa, he met Father Damien, the Belgium Roman Catholic priest whose name became recognized for his charity work and fight against leprosy. After returning to England, Clifford made watercolor paintings from his Hawaiian portrait sketches, later used for illustrations in the 1889 published account of his journey “Portrait of Joseph Damien de Veuster”. 

Edward Clifford died in 1907 in England. His works are in many public collections including the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Harvard University Portrait Collection, London’s National Portrait Gallery, and the Nation Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. 

Top Insert Image: Edward Clifford, “Portrait of a Boy”, 1872, Chalk on Paper on Board, 21 x 19 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Edward Clifford, “Tito Melema”, Date Unknown, Pencil, Watercolor, and Bodycolor with Gum Arabic, 36.8 x 30.5 cm, Private Collection. Tito Melema was the Greek husband of Romola de Bardi, the heroine of George Elliot’s 1862 novel “Romola”, set in Renaissance Florence. The watercolour is a somewhat rare example of Clifford using a secular and contemporary literary subject.

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