Walter Howell Deverell (1827-1854)

The painter W. H. Deverell produced Pre-Raphaelite style work, and also social realism, Shakespearian subjects, and other figure subjects. He was born to English parents living in Virginia, USA, and they returned to England when the young Deverell was an infant. When grown, he was placed in a solicitor's office, but indulged his artistic interests by going to Sass's art school from 1844. Rossetti was a fellow pupil, and took Deverell under his wing. He turned full time to art, studying at the Royal Academy Schools from 1846. In 1850 he contributed to The Germ, and exhibited the Pre-Raphaelite picture Twelfth Night. His model for that picture was Elizabeth Siddall, whom he 'discovered', and who later was to marry Rossetti. When Collinson resigned from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Rossetti proposed Deverell in his place, though he was never actually elected.

Deverell's career was unfortunately short. In 1853 his father died, and he was left with the responsibility of taking care of his younger siblings. Illness meant he had to give up his job as a teacher at the School of Design, and in some degree of poverty, he continued to paint at home. He died of Bright's disease early in 1854, aged just 27.

Deverell's pictures are typically figure subjects, with rather sharp-eyed faces, and rich clothes on his models. Apart from 12th Night, which is, or was, in the Forbes Magazine Collection, another subject from Shakespeare is a scene from As You Like It in the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead. The Tate Gallery has good portraits including A Pet and Eustatia, and the same girl as in the former appears in The Grey Parrot in Melbourne. An important, grim late subject is The Irish Vagrants at the Johannesburg Art Gallery.

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