Sir George Clausen


 Sir George Clausen,

Came to live in Widdington Village in 1891-1905,

and he stayed at Bishop House



George Clausen RA 1852-1944.


The Times Friday November 4, 1944


Death Notice

CLAUSEN :- On November 22, 1944, at Cold Ash, Newbury, Sir George Clausen, RA., aged 92. Funeral private. Memorial Service at St Martin-in-the-Fields at 2.30 p m on Friday December 1.

Sir George Clausen RA, RWS died yesterday at Cold Ash near Newbury at the house of his son-in-law Mr Thomas Derrick.


George Clausen was born in London in 1852. His father of Danish extraction was a decorative artist, and the boy at eighteen became a draughtsman in a builders office. Thence he passed to the National School of Art (now the Royal College of Art) at South Kensington, and a few pages of “Recollections” which he published forty year later gave an interesting picture of the art education of those days. The technical training was good, but limited. Leighton and Millais were the models to be chiefly admired, but young Clausen and a few more were aware of Whistler, whom they saw in Chelsea, but never dared address. It is curious to read that for a time Clausen worked in the studio of Edwin Long, and in Paris in that of Bouguereau, artists with whom his work had nothing in common. By Millet, Corot, Degas, and Manet, however, Clausen was permanently influenced. This was evident in the pictures which he began to exhibit at Burlington House, in the late 70s; pictures of country life and landscape which impressed not only the public, but the senior artists with their sincerity, and keenness of observation, and their grasp of life and movement. He did good work in the Academy schools, where he was formerly Professor of Painting, and published in 1906 as “Six Lectures on Painting,” the sound and interesting discourses which he had delivered to students. Then he brought out “Aims and Ideals in Art,” a book in which he showed a remarkably sympathetic understanding of the as yet confused aims of the younger generation.

Clausen’s best paintings were always the fruit of a profound study of country life, of landscapes in sun and shade, of flowers, of work on the farm. His most remarkable characteristic was his power of growth. No other painter of his age responded so freely to the spirit of the times - and that without injury to the strongly personal character of his work. His later developments may be described as starting with the careful naturalism of “The Girl at the Gate,” purchased by the Chantrey Bequest in 1890 and now in the Tate Gallery, in a decorative and atmospheric direction, Working mostly in Essex, but also making use of his immediate surroundings in St John’s Wood, he was more concerned with conditions of light, a favourite of his being the prismatic play of colour when objects are seen against the sun. Clausen, however, differed from the French Impressionists by retaining integrity of form. Nobody excelled him in the capacity to suggest bulk and solidity in conditions when the actual features of landscapes were almost obliterated. Of his landscapes in this manner “The Gleaners Returning” in the Academy of 1898, was also bought by the Chantrey Bequest.

Barn interiors, paintings of the nude, and still life compositions were other characteristic subjects; and in all his work Clausen showed a poetical appreciation akin to that of Thomas Hardy, but without the abiding sense of tragedy of the relation of man to nature. His portraits were distinguished by a peculiar gravity, and include the self-portrait in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. It was in his water-colours, contributed to the exhibitions of the Royal Water-Colour Society, of which he became a member in 1898, and at which he continued to exhibit until quite recently, that he showed his extraordinary youthfulness of mind. Bold in design, and swift and summary in execution, a collection of them at the Grosvenor Gallery about twenty years ago, suggested less the work of one already a veteran, than that of a young man in the full vigour of his powers. Clausen had a scholarly understanding of the special problems of mural decoration, and also turned his attention to posters, being one of the most successful Academicians invited by the LMS in 1927 to contribute designs. Adaptability was, indeed, one of his most prominent characteristics. His enlightened sympathy with “modernism” in art was generally recognized, and when the Academy began to open its doors to work of a more experimental kind, it generally fell to Clausen to arrange the contents of Gallery 1X, reserved for the less orthodox contributions..

Clausen, who became an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1895, and an Academician in 1906, was knighted in 1927. In 1881 he married Agnes, the daughter of George Webster of Kings Lynn. She died in March this year. He is survived by three sons and a daughter. Another daughter, Katherine, who was an accomplished painter, died some years ago.



Picture kindly supplied by Diana Thorley


BORN APRIL 18th 1852. DIED NOV 22nd 1944


BORN NOV 27th 1856. DIED MARCH 4th 1944

They came to this village during the War and died here

He would have chosen to rest in the Essex countryside

that he loved and painted. She would have chosen to be

wherever he was.




Sir George ClausenBy Jenifer Brooke-Smith



A PORTRAIT by Widdington artist George Clausen, which was expected to fetch up to £0.5m at auction today (Wednesday, June 15) failed to find a buyer.
The Victorian oil of farm girl Emily Wright, from the village, was part of a sale at Christie’s in London and estimated to fetch at least £300,000.
Clausen originally sold the work for just £26 and five shillings. In his account book  for 1894, Clausen noted he had sold “the little head of Emmy Wright” to Vernon Wethered.
According to the 1891 Census, Emily, or Emmy as she was affectionately known, was the eldest child of Widdington-born bricklayer Frederick Wright and his Clavering-born wife, Isabel, who lived at Main Street in the village.
She was about 13-years-old when the picture was painted by Clausen in 1894. In 1891, the Wrights had five children: Emily, 10: Nellie aged eight: six-year-old James; John aged four: and Fred junior who was two. By 1901,the Wrights had five more children and in the same census Emily was listed as "an assistant school teacher".

Your website states that you are still working on the "Sir George Clausen" page and welcomes information; the following may be of some use in this regard:

The 1901 census shows the Clausen residence as Wises Farm, Widdington. This conflicts with the general view that the family rented the Bishop house from the Smith family between 1891 and 1905 (the Royal Academy's records, Jenifer Brooke-Smith's article and David Derrick's on-line blog refer). Only Agnes Clausen and the youngest child, Raymond John Clausen are shown living at Wises, however, together with their maid Mary Coe, a local girl. The two daughters (Meg and Kitty) were at school in Skipton and presumably the two older boys were away at other schools; George was visiting a colleague in London on the day of the census.

I know that the artist painted a picture of Wises (he called it Winzes) in 1905 and that he was Professor of Painting at the RA Schools from 1903 to 1906, meaning that he would have spent much of his time in London. Perhaps the Bishop house was too large for the reduced Clausen family at this time.

I hope that this information may be of some use.


David Rayner

Wises Farm,  c 1905


Emily "Emmy" Wright is named by George Clausen as the model for the young girl in "Evening Song", painted at Widdington in 1893. I recently had the opportunity to examine many studies in pastels for this picture which are held in the Royal Academy's archives, including a very fine study of the girl's face.

Since I wrote to you I have traced the 1901 census record for Emily Wright and I was pleased to discover that she was still living at home (25, The Village, Widdington) and her occupation is given as Assistant School Teacher. Emily must therefore be the young lady standing on the far right of your 1900 Widdington school photograph and on the left of the 1901 picture. She was born in 1881, making her about 12 when she posed for "Evening Song"; her small stature makes her look younger in both the painting and your photographs, taken when she was about 19 and 20. The census shows that her grandfather James Wright, retired from his position as the village shoemaker, was also at the same address - there were then four adults (including Emily) and seven children living there. I wonder if this is the same property as "Wright's Cottage".

Ten years earlier, Emily and her parents Frederick and Isabel Wright were living at Woodend Cottage, which does not appear in the 1901 census and may be one of several houses which were demolished before that date. 

Thanks again for your assistance,


Dave Rayner