Briton Rivière

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St. George and the Dragon - Briton Rivière's depiction of an exhausted St. George lying down beside the slain dragon is a radical departure from the triumphant equestrian position in which this saint is traditionally depicted.
Daniel's Answer to the King (1890; Manchester Art Gallery).
Requiescat, painting by Briton Rivière (1888; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney).

Briton Rivière RA (London 14 August 1840 – 20 April 1920 London)[1] was a British artist of Huguenot descent. He exhibited a variety of paintings at the Royal Academy, but devoted much of his life to animal paintings.


His father, William Rivière (1806–1876), was for some years drawing-master at Cheltenham College, and then an art teacher at the University of Oxford. He was educated at Cheltenham College and Oxford, where he took his degree in 1867. For his art training he was indebted almost entirely to his father. His paternal uncle Henry Parsons Rivière (1811–1888) was also a noted watercolourist, exhibiting works at the Royal Watercolour Society, London and the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists.

His first pictures appeared at the British Institution, and in 1857 he exhibited three works at the Royal Academy, but it was not until 1863 that he became a regular contributor to the Academy exhibitions. In that year he was represented by The eve of the Spanish Armada, and in 1864 by a Romeo and Juliet. However, subjects of this kind did not attract him long, for in 1865 he began, with Sleeping Deerhound, a series of paintings of animal-subjects which occupied much of the rest of his life. In a lengthy interview in Chums Boys Annual, entitled "How I paint animals", Rivière explained some of the practicalities of painting both tame and wild animals:

"I have always been a great lover of dogs but I have worked at them so much that I've grown tired of having them about me. However, you can never paint a dog unless you are fond of it. I never work from a dog without the assistance of a man who is well acquainted with animals..... Collies, I think, are the most restless dogs....greyhounds are also very restless, and so are fox terriers..... The only way to paint wild animals is to gradually accumulate a large number of studies and a great knowledge of the animal itself, before you can paint its picture...... I paint from dead animals as well as from live ones. I have had the body of a fine lioness in my studio..... I have done a great deal of work in the dissecting rooms at the Zoological Gardens from time to time."[2]


He also painted portraits, most notably of his brother-in-law, Sydney Thompson Dobell, the poet and breeder of deerhounds. A pencil sketch of Sydney Dobell by him is in the National Portrait Gallery. Sydney Dobell's deerhounds appeared in several of his works, notably The empty chair of 1869. A faithful bloodhound figures prominently in Requiescat (he made a repetition of the work in 1889, now in a private collection), The last of the garrison and Naughty boy or compulsory education (1909), which was used by Pears Soap in the sequence of promotional pictures begun with Millais' Bubbles. Early in his career, he made some mark as an illustrator, beginning with Punch. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1878, and R.A. in 1881, and received the degree of DCL at Oxford in 1891. He was only narrowly defeated in the election for President of the Royal Academy in 1896. His wife, Mary Alice Rivière (née Dobell; 1844–1931) who he married in 1867, was a painter and exhibited briefly at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1869–70. After his death she presented the British Museum with four of his drawings (and an etching The king drinks), which complements the dozens of prints made after his work housed there, especially by Frederick Stacpoole and William Henry Simmons. The artist and his wife had seven children; five sons and two daughters. One of the sons, Hugh Goldwin Rivière (1869–1956), became a noted portraitist.


Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 


  1. ^ Ann Lauren: Biography of Rivière
  2. ^ 'How I paint animals', Chums Boys Annual, No. 256, Vol. V, 4 August 1897
  3. ^ Christie's, London, 7 July 1922, lot 21.
  4. ^ Christie's, London, 7 July 1922, lot 20.
  5. ^ Christie's, London, 12 December 1921, lot 121.
  6. ^ a b Chapel, Jeannie (1982). Victorian Taste, The complete catalogue of paintings at Royal Holloway College. Surrey: Royal Holloway College. pp. 126–27. ISBN 0 902194 08 9. )
  7. ^ Stephen George Holland (1817–1908), his sale, Christie's, London, 25–26, 29 June 1908, lot 98.
  8. ^ Christie's, London, 9 April 1926, lot 134.
  9. ^ Stephen George Holland (1817–1908), his sale, Christie's, London, 25–26, 29 June 1908, lot 99.