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Charles Robert Leslie RA (1794 - 1859)

RA Collection: People and Organisations

Charles Robert Leslie was born in London in 1794, but spent most of his childhood in America. Too poor to study as an artist, Leslie was apprenticed to the publishers Messrs Bradford and Inskeep in Philadelphia. One of the partners in the firm (himself a director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts) recognised Leslie’s talent and helped raise money for him to study in London, promoting the young artist’s work as well as contributing funds himself.

Leslie arrived in England in 1811 with a letter of introduction to the President of the Royal Academy, Benjamin West (himself from Pennsylvania). Leslie received tuition from West, and his former student Washington Allston, and also enrolled in the Royal Academy Schools in 1813. Ambitious early works such as The Murder of Rutland by Lord Clifford show Leslie emulating the history painting of Allston and West.

Leslie subsequently turned to light-hearted genre scenes of the sort favoured by David Wilkie, such as Londoners Gypsying. These often drew from well-known literary texts, but eschewed the dramatic and heroic episodes favoured by history painters in favour of humorous or sentimental scenes. Leslie also painted numerous portraits of celebrated sitters including Sir Walter Scott.

Leslie was elected as an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1821, with full membership following in 1826. By this time Leslie had decided not to return to the United States, although his resolve was tested in 1833, when his brother Tom obtained for the artist (without his knowledge) the post of teacher of drawing at the Military Academy of West Point in upstate New York. Leslie agreed, but after five unhappy months in West Point, returned permanently to England.

Leslie was a good friend of the artist John Constable (Leslie’s portrait of Constable is in the RA Collection). After Constable’s death, Leslie wrote the first biography of Constable, Memoirs of the Life of John Constable (1843). More books followed, including a biography of Sir Joshua Reynolds which Leslie left unfinished at his death in 1859.


Royal Academician

Born: 19 October 1794 in London, England, United Kingdom

Died: 5 May 1859

Nationality: British

RA Schools student from 23 March 1813

Elected ARA: 5 November 1821

Elected RA: 10 February 1826

Professor of Painting: 1847 - 1852

Gender: Male

Preferred media: Painting

Works by Charles Robert Leslie in the RA Collection

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Works after Charles Robert Leslie in the RA Collection

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Works associated with Charles Robert Leslie in the RA Collection

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Associated books

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Associated archives

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