Saturday, February 25, 2012

William Simpson: War Artist

William Simpson between 1855 and 1865 by Fenton, Roger
Throughout this posting are lithographs of Crimean War scenes from ‘The Campaign in the Crimea: An historical sketch’ being illustrations from forty plates from drawings taken at the scene by William Simpson. Produced by George Brackenbury, Published by Paul & Dominic Colnaghi & Longman, Brown, etc., 1855-56.  Lithographs by Day & Son, Lithographers to the Queen.
Balaclava Harbour by William Simpson
The Scottish artist and correspondent William ‘Crimean’ Simpson was born in Glasgow on 28 October 1823. He sketched events of his times including numerous military campaigns for the Illustrated London News. Apprenticed in Glasgow lithographic firm of Macfarlanehe, Simpson attended the Andersonian University and the Mechanics Institute before taking a position to create an image of the Alma to be lithographed by London publisher, Lloyd's.
'Balaclava Looking Toward the Sea' by William Simpson
Simpson would create sketches and watercolours for setting into stone for the firm of Colnaghi to be created into lithographs. Whilst finishing his fall of Sebastapol before leaving England, he arrived in the Crimea on 15 November in time for the fall of the city. William Simpson was thirty years of age. He sent his watercolours London for Day & Son who would create lithographs which were exhibited in the Graphic Society in February 1855.
Distant view of Lord Raglan's head quarters before Sebastopol by William Simpson
Rather than creating epic oil canvass works such as his contemporary war artists were to do, Simpson created a vast array of works on the entire campaign, capturing the landscapes, logistic activities and encampments as well as the battle pieces so beloved of the heroic painter.

'The Railway at Balaclava Looking East' by William Simpson 1855
Simpson's vast volume of work stretched across the entire Balaclava Campaign and the rest of the war as far as he experienced it - little wonder he earned the moniker ''Crimea'. I have included only those works which I have associated with the action we recognise as the Battle of Balaclava.

'View from the heights above Balaklava' by William Simpson
Two extensive portfolios were assembled containing over eighty lithographs entitled ‘The Seat of the War in the East’, two thousand copies of which were produced. Simpson dedicated the series to Queen Victoria whose patronage he enjoyed for the rest of his life.
'5th Dragoon Guards at Balaclava' by William Simpson also referred to as his 'Charge of the Heavy Brigade'
Simpson was married with one daughter (Penelope) who emigrated to Australia. William Simpson died at home in Willesden, North London, on 17 August 1899 and was buried in Highgate Cemetery.
'The Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava' by Williasm Simpson
There are numerous examples of Simpson's works on-line and much of his work covering the whole of the Balaclava campaign and siege of Sebastapol can be found.
'Embarkation of the Sick at Balaclava' by William Simpson

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