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Samuel Redgrave (1802 - 1876)

RA Collection: People and Organisations

Samuel Redgrave was an English civil servant and writer on art, born at 9 Upper Eaton Street, Pimlico, London on 3 October 1802. He was eldest son of William Redgrave, and brother of the painter Richard Redgrave RA. Around the age of 14 he obtained a clerkship at the Home Office, and in his leisure time studied French, German, and Spanish, and practised watercolour painting and architectural drawing.

He was admitted in 1833 to the Royal Academy Schools as an architectural student.

He subsequently received a permanent appointment at the Home Office, and worked on the registration of criminal offences. In 1836 he acted as secretary to the constabulary force commission, and in May 1839 became assistant private secretary to Lord John Russell, and then to Fox Maule, until September 1841. From December 1852 to February 1856, he was private secretary to Henry Fitzroy.

Following his retirement in 1860 he devoted himself to art as both curator and art historian. He helped with the international exhibitions in London (1862) and Paris (1867) and organized numerous exhibitions at the South Kensington Museum and at the Royal Academy of Arts, acting as secretary to the committee which carried out the exhibitions of the works of old masters and deceased British artists held at the RA from 1870. He retired from this role upon the appointment of a lay secretary, Sir Frederick Eaton, to the Academy in 1873.

He was a member of the Etching Club from its foundation in 1837, serving as secretary from 1842 until his death. From the late 1840s he was an active member of the Society of Arts, serving on many of its committees and holding the offices of treasurer and vice-president.

His most valuable contribution to art history was as the author of two important texts on British painting, particularly with regard to minor artists: A Century of Painters of the English School (1866; later editions of 1890 and 1947 titled A Century of British Painters), co-authored with his brother Richard Redgrave RA; and A dictionary of artists of the English school: painters, sculptors, architects, engravers and ornamentists; with notices of their lives and work (1874; rev. edns, 1878, 1970). These biographically accounts offer an accessible and authoritative introduction to the history of British art. His Descriptive catalogue of the historical collection of British paintings in water-colours in the South Kensington Museum, whose informative preface outlined the history of the British watercolour, appeared posthumously in 1877.

Redgrave died at 17 Hyde Park Gate South, London in 1876, and was buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity, Brompton. [Source: DNB, Wikipedia].


Born: 3 October 1802 in London

Died: 20 March 1876

RA Schools student from 1833

Gender: Male

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