Francis Seymour Haden

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Sir Francis Seymour Haden

Sir Francis Seymour Haden CMG FRCS PPRE (16 September 1818 – 1 June 1910), was an English surgeon, best known as an original etcher who championed original printmaking and founded the Society of Painter-Etchers, now styled the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers ( at his home, 38 Hertford Street, Mayfair, on the 31st July, 1880.


Haden was born at 62 Lower Sloane Street, Chelsea, London. His father, Charles Thomas Haden, being a well-known doctor and lover of music. He was educated at Derby School, Christ's Hospital, and University College, London, and also studied at the Sorbonne, Paris, where he took his degree in 1840.[1][2] He was admitted as a member of the College of Surgeons in London in 1842.[3]

Artistic career[edit]

In 1843–44, with his friends Duval, Le Cannes and Colonel Guibout, he travelled to Italy and made his first sketches and six etchings from nature. Haden attended no art school and had no art teachers, but between 1845 and 1848 he studied intently, the portfolios of prints belonging to a second-hand dealer named Love, who had a shop in Bunhill Row, the old Quaker quarter of London. Arranging the prints in chronological order, he studied in particular, the works of the great original engravers, Albrecht Dürer, Lucas van Leyden and Rembrandt.[3]

As mentioned in "Print REbels": Exquisite line, especially drypoint burr, sometimes calligraphic in sensibility, can be seen across Haden's prints, the majority which are landscapes. Added to this is his range and intensity of expression. He expresses the maximum by means of the minimum to achieve the essence of his subject matter: what Haden himself called "the labour of omission". [8] Haden's printmaking was mutually invigorated by his younger brother-in-law, James McNeill Whistler, at the Haden home in Lower Sloane Street in 1855. An etching press was installed there and for a while Haden and Whistler collaborated on a series of etchings of the Thames. However, the relationship and project did not last.[4]

The Island Opposite Boyle's Farm, Upper Thames

Haden followed the art of original etching with such vigour that he became not only the foremost British exponent of that art from 1865 but brought about its revival in England. His strenuous efforts and perseverance, aided by the secretarial ability of Sir WIlliam R Drake RE, resulted in the foundation of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, styled the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers since 1990. As President Haden ruled the Society for thirty years with a strong hand from its first beginnings in 1880. "As PRE," Frederick Keppel, author and print collector wrote: "Sir Francis Seymour Haden did great work in maintaining sound doctrine in etching. Nothing was admitted that was "commercial" in character, and etchings that were done after paintings by other hands were vigorously ruled out." In fact, as regarding the RE Members, "he ruled them with a rod of iron," However, "membership was eagerly sought for - so much that many famous et hers weren't never elected though they thrived hard to be."[3] [8]

Notwithstanding Haden's study of the old masters of his art, Haden's own plates were very individual.[3] He preferred to work directly onto the plate in front of the subject.[5] Malcolm Salaman Hon RE wrote of Haden drawing from nature; "with that breadth, freedom, and spontaneity of effect, which, while suggesting a sketch, represented a true etcher's drawing".[5] Even when working from a picture by another artist his personality dominates the plate, as for example in the large plate he etched after J.M.W. Turner's Calais Pier, which is a classical example of what interpretative work can do in black and white. Of his original plates, 263 in number [8], one of the most notable was the large Breaking up of the Agamemnon.

An early plate, rare and most beautiful, is Thames Fisherman. Mytton Hall is broad in treatment, and a fine rendering of a shady avenue of yew trees leading to an old manor-house (now a hotel in Lancashire) in September sunlight. Sub Tegmine was etched in Greenwich Park in 1859; and Early Morning--Richmond", full of the poetry and freshness of the hour, was done, according to Haden, actually at sunrise. One of the rarest and most beautiful of his plates is A By-Road in Tipperary; Combe Bottom is another; and Shere Mill Pond (both the small study and the larger plate), The Towing Path, Kilgaren Castle, The Three Sisters, Battersea Reach - Out of Whistler's Window, Penton Hook, Grim Spain and Evening Fishing, Longparish are also notable examples of his work. Sunset in Ireland is Haden's acknowledged pastoral masterpiece. [8] A catalogue of his works was begun by Sir William Drake and completed by Harrington in 1880. During later years also Haden began to practise mezzotint engraving, with a measure of the same success that he had already achieved in pure etching and in drypoint. His mezzotints include An Early Riser, a stag seen through the morning mists, Grayling Fishing and A Salmon Pool on the Spey. He also created paintings and charcoal drawings of trees and park-like country.[3]


Haden's studies of Rembrandt, besides influencing his original work, led to his important monograph on the Dutch artist's etchings. Haden was the first to catalogue Rembrandt's etchings chronologically and in "states". [8] Through books and lectures, and with the aid of an exhibition at the Burlington Fine Arts Club in 1877, he tried to give a true reflection of Rembrandt's work,[3] excluding from his oeuvre a large number of plates previously attributed to him.[6] Haden's reasons were founded upon the results of a study of the master's works in chronological order, and are clearly expressed in his monograph, The Etched Work of Rembrandt critically reconsidered, privately printed in 1877, and in The Etched Work of Rembrandt: True and False (1895).[3] 102 of Rembrandt's etchings from Haden's collection were exhibited alongside the RE Annual exhibition in 1890.

A Water Meadow, Dallas Museum of Art

Other books written by Haden not already mentioned are:

  • Etudes a l'eau forte (Paris, 1865) x
  • About Etching (London, 1878-1879)
  • The Art of the Painter-Etcher (London, 1890)
  • The Relative Claims of Etching and Engraving to rank as Fine Arts and to be represented in the Royal Academy (London, 1883)
  • Address to Students of Winchester School of Art (Winchester, 1888)
  • Cremation: a Pamphlet (London, 1875)
  • The Disposal of the Dead, a Plea for Legislation (London, 1888).

As the last two indicate, he was an ardent champion of a system of "earth to earth" burial.[3] During the London 'Burial Crisis' of the late 1840s, following several epidemics, he aired a proposal to ship the bodies of London's dead to the Thames Estuary for use in land reclamation but this met with little approval.[7]


Among numerous distinctions Haden received the Grand Prix, Paris, in 1889 and 1900, and was made an honorary member of the Institut de France, Académie des Beaux-Arts and Société des Artistes Français. Haden was knighted in 1894 for his services "to the advancement of original etching and engraving".

Bicentenary commemoration of Sir Francis Seymour Haden:

Print REbels, an exhibition commemorating 200 years since the birth of Haden and celebrating the origins of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, founded by Haden, was launched by this Society at the Bankside Gallery, London. This exhibition tours UK museums and galleries until 2019. A 346 page catalogue/book, published by the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers in April 2018, comprehensively mirrors Haden's achievements and influence. A limited edition "REbels Portfolio" by current Members of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers was created, also, in celebration. Box sets of this portfolio are in the permanent collection of The British Museum, London; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and HM The Queen.


In 1847 he married the musician Dasha Whistler, the half-sister of the artist James McNeill Whistler (the siblings sharing the same father only); and his eldest son, Francis Seymour Haden (b. 1850), was educated at Marlborough College in Wiltshire and had a distinguished career as a member of the government in Natal Colony from 1881 to 1893, being made a C.M.G. in 1890.[3]


  • A Catalogue Raisonné of the Prints of Sir Francis Seymour Haden by Dr Richard S. Schneiderman (1983) ISBN 978-0-9060-3016-5.


  1. ^ "Biographical entry - Haden, Sir Francis Seymour (1818 - 1910)". Royal College of Surgeons. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  2. ^ "Francis Seymour Haden (Biographical details)". British Museum.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Haden, Sir Francis Seymour" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  4. ^ Garton & Co. Archived 2008-08-28 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b Salaman, Malcolm (1917). Graphic Arts of Great Britain. London: Studio. p. 57.
  6. ^ Woodfield, E.H. Gombrich ; edited by Richard (1987). Reflections on the history of art : views and reviews (1. ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 138. ISBN 9780520061897.
  7. ^ Arnold, Catherine (2006). Necropolis: London and its dead. Simon & Schuster. p. 160.

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