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Francis Seymour Haden

Sir Francis Seymour Haden (September 16, 1818 - June 1, 1910), English surgeon and etcher, was born in London, his father, Charles Thomas Haden, being a well-known doctor and amateur of music.

He was educated at University College school and University College, London, and also studied at the Sorbonne, Paris, where he took his degree in 1840. He was admitted as a member of the College of Surgeons in London in 1842. Besides his many-sided activities in the scientific world, during a busy and distinguished career as a surgeon, he followed the art of original etching with such vigour that he became not only the foremost British exponent of that art but was the principal cause of its revival in England. By his strenuous efforts and perseverance, aided by the secretarial ability of Sir WR Drake, he founded the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers. As president he ruled the destinies of that society with a strong hand from its first beginnings in 1880. In 1843-1844, with his friends Duval, Le Cannes and Col. Guibout, he had travelled in Italy and made his first sketches from nature.

Haden attended no art school and had no art teachers, but in 1845, 1846, 1847 and 1848 he studied portfolios of prints belonging to an old second-hand dealer named Love, who had a shop in Bunhill Row, the old Quaker quarter of London. These portfolios he would carry home, and arranging the prints in chronological order, he studied the works of the great original engravers, Dürer, Lucas van Leyden and Rembrandt. These studies, besides influencing his original work, led to his important monograph on the etched work of Rembrandt. By lecture and book, and with the aid of the memorable exhibition at the Burlington Fine Arts Club in 1877, he endeavoured to give a just idea of Rembrandt's work, separating the true from the false, and giving altogether a nobler idea of the master's mind by taking away from the list of his works many dull and unseemly plates that had long been included in the lists. His reasons are founded upon the results of a study of the master's works in chronological order, and are clearly expressed in his monograph, The Etched Work of Rembrandt critically reconsidered, privately printed in 1877, and in The Etched Work of Rembrandt True and False (1895).

Notwithstanding all this study of the old masters of his art, Haden's own plates are perhaps more individual than any artist's, and are particularly noticeable for a fine original treatment of landscape subjects, free and open in line, clear and well divided in mass, and full of a noble and dignified style of his own. Even when working from a picture his personality dominates the plate, as for example in the large plate he etched after J.M.W. Turner's "Calais Pier," which is a classical example of what interpretative work can do in black and white. Of his original plates, more than 250 in number, one of the most notable was the large "Breaking up of the Agamemnon."

An early plate, rare and most beautiful, is "Thames Fisherman." "Mytton Hall" is broad in treatment, and a fine rendering of a shady avenue of yew trees leading to an old manor-house in sunlight. "Sub Tegmine" was etched in Greenwich Park in 1859; and "Early Morning--Richmond," full of the poetry and freshness of the hour, was done, the artist has said, actually at sunrise. One of the rarest and most beautiful of his plates is "A By-Road in Tipperary"; "Combe Bottom" is another; and "Shere Mill Pond" (both the small study and the larger plate), "Sunset in Ireland," "Penton Hook," "Grim Spain" and "Evening Fishing, Longparish," are also notable examples of his genius. A catalogue of his works was begun by Sir William Drake and completed by Mr N Harrington (1880). During later years Haden began to practise the sister art of mezzotint engraving, with a measure of the same success that he had already achieved in pure etching and in dry-point. Some of his mezzotints are: "An Early Riser," a stag seen through the morning mists, "Grayling Fishing" and "A Salmon Pool on the Spey." He also produced some remarkable drawings of trees and park-like country in charcoal.

Other books by Haden not already mentioned are:

As the last two indicate, he was an ardent champion of a system of "earth to earth" burial.

Among numerous distinctions he received the Grand Prix, Paris, in 1889 and 1900, and was made a member of the Institut de France, Académie des Beaux-Arts and Société des Artistes Français. He was knighted in 1894. He married in 1847 a sister of the artist JAM Whistler; and his elder son, Francis Seymour Haden (b. 1850), had a distinguished career as a member of the government in Natal from 1881 to 1893, being made a C.M.G. in 1890.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.