George Edmund Butler

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George Edmund Butler
George Edmund Butler alongside one of his paintings.JPG
George Edmund Butler at work
Born (1872-01-15)January 15, 1872
Southampton, England
Died August 9, 1936(1936-08-09) (aged 64)
Twickenham, England
Known for Painting

George Edmund Butler ((1872-01-15)January 15, 1872–August 9, 1936(1936-08-09)) was a landscape and portrait painter specializing in oils and watercolours.

Early life[edit]

Born 15 January 1872 in Southampton, England, George Edmund Butler emigrated to Wellington, New Zealand with his parents, Joseph Cawte Butler and Jane Tiller, in 1883.[1] After completing his education at Te Aro School, Butler worked for his father and studied art part-time under James Nairn at the Wellington School of Design.[2]

Art education[edit]

Butler enrolled at the Wellington School of Design in 1890. In 1892 he joined the avant-garde Wellington Art Club, founded by Nairn, and soon established a local reputation for his paintings of seascapes.[2] In 1897, Butler went to Sydney with the Wellington art dealer McGregor Wright to study pictures in the National Art Gallery of New South Wales.[2] Between 1898 and 1900, Butler undertook art studies abroad.[1] While on studies abraod, Butler married his first wife, Sarah Jane Popplestone, on 29 April 1899 at Lyndhurst, Hampshire.[2] Butler studied at the Lambeth School of Art, and the Académie Julian in Paris, where he gained honours.[1] He later studied at the Antwerp Academy, winning a gold medal and laurel wreath in 1900.[2]

Art career[edit]

Butler returned to Wellington in 1900 and exhibited in Wellington and Christchurch art society exhibitions that year.[1] In 1901 he settled in Dunedin and exhibited there until 1905.[1] Butler's paintings won praise at the Otago Art Society exhibitions, but life as a professional artist without private means gave little financial reward.[1] He supported himself by giving tuition in drawing, and was commissioned to complete a number of portraits of city dignitaries.[2] In 1905 he returned to England and settled in Bristol, teaching art at Clifton College.[1] Butler was elected to the Royal West of England Academy in 1912 after establishing a reputation as a portrait and landscape artist in oils and watercolours.[2] Butler also exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal Scottish Academy, the Royal Academy and the annual salon exhibition at the Société des Artistes Français in Paris.[1]

War artist[edit]

A woman in a long dress stands at a roadside looking at a collection of thirty white cross grave markers, surrounded by grass, in a field beside the road.
A roadside cemetery near Neuve Eglise, a painting by George Edmund Butler

The New Zealand Expeditionary Force War Museum Committee approached Butler to be an official New Zealand war artist because of his reputation as an artist and his New Zealand connections.[1] He was appointed with the honorary rank of captain in September 1918 and joined the New Zealand Division in France later that same month.[1] He carried a sketchbook in which he made pencil drawings of actual operations and war scenes, often under fire.[1] These sketches were later used as the basis for his paintings. After the Armistice, he returned to sketch all the New Zealand battlefield sites in Belgium and France.[1] After being demobilized on 31 December 1918, Butler was privately commissioned by Robert Heaton Rhodes and Major General Sir Andrew Hamilton Russell to do a further series of senior officer portraits and a number of large landscapes of New Zealand battlefield site along the Western Front.[1] It was Rhodes's intention to persuade the New Zealand government to purchase these works.[2] The New Zealand cabinet finally agreed to the idea in September 1921 and approved payment, including the purchase of a further two large works and 26 smaller paintings recommended by the New Zealand High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Sir James Allen.[2]

Second marriage and death[edit]

Butler never returned to New Zealand. Following Sarah Butler's death at Trimley, Suffolk, on 15 March 1928, he married Monica Susan Boyce in London on 29 April 1929.[2] He died at Twickenham on 9 August 1936, survived by his second wife and two children, Bernice and Brian, of his first marriage.[1][3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "George Edmund Butler - War Art Digitisation". Archives New Zealand. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Pugsley, Chris (1 September 2010). "Butler, George Edmund - Biography - Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  3. ^ "MR. GEORGE E. BUTLER". Evening Post. CXXII (8). 2 October 1936. p. 5. 

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