by John | Oct 19, 2012 |

Thomas Churchyard, A True Artist of Woodbridge


A true artist of Woodbridge, Thomas Churchyard was born in Melton in 1798 just before the start of the Napoleonic wars. A bright child, he was sent to Dedham Grammar School, where John Constable had been a pupil some 20 years earlier.

Although painting and illustration was always his first love, he trained as a solicitor, spending much of his spare time studying artists from the Norwich School, as well as illustrating a book of botanical subjects.

Having finished his Articles he moved to London where he visited exhibitions at the Academy, seeing and being influenced by works by Constable.

He married in 1825, and he and his expanding family set up home in Well Street (now Seckford Street) in Woodbridge. He continued to paint and in 1830 began to exhibit in London.

Churchyard was one of the founder members of the Ipswich Society of Professional and Amateur Artists; other members included Edward FitzGerald, later to become a great friend.

He tried his hand at painting full time, but natural landscapes were not as popular with the public as they are now and in 1833 Thomas Churchyard regretfully returned to the law and opened an office in Quay Street, Woodbridge, painting and drawing whenever the opportunity arose; his love of quick sketches fitting in with his limited time frame.

Many of his paintings include watery greens, black in the blues, purple in the distance with touches of pink in the sky and blue touches in the foliage. He had a tendency to scatter lights rather arbitrarily. Often the ground was not well prepared and the grain shows through.

He rarely signed his work or dated it, although he sometimes initialled it on the stretcher.

Churchyard formed a deep friendship with Bernard Barton, a Quaker poet and banker and through him renewed his friendship with Edward FitzGerald. Meeting regularly the three, known locally as the Woodbridge Whits, inspired each other's artistic endeavours as well as enjoying fine wine and food together.

Many of the views that Churchyard painted can still be seen around the county. In Southwold, both the beach and gun hill can be easily recognised and the buildings he depicted on Southwold’s South Green, still stand. Churchyard’s views of the Deben will be familiar to anyone who has fallen in love with that river although the vessels that plough its waters have certainly changed.

A great collector, an inventory of Churchyard's possessions made in 1854 lists works by Gainsborough and Constable, Crome, George Morland, Richard Wilson, Turner, Stothard, Dunthorne, Rowe, Rubens and Etty. By the time of his death he had a collection of over 4,000 paintings. Thomas Churchyard's own paintings are now highly collectable.

Read more about Thomas Churchyard click here.


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