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Local boy makes good

11/20/2009
Bird, Edward - Tristram Shandy Tray

Decorated Tray with scene from Tristram Shandy signed and attributed to Edward Bird.

Edward Bird (1772- 1819) is a great example of a local person from humble origins who started his working life in a factory but went on to become famous.

Edward Bird was apprenticed to the japanning company, Rytons,  at the Old Hall works in 1785 where he began his career painting flowers on trays.   His talent as an artist didn’t go un-noticed however and by the time he had completed his apprenticeship he was sought after by rival firms.

By 1794 he was sufficiently established as an artist to move to Bristol to work as an independent artist and set up a drawing school.

From 1809, when he first exhibited at the Royal Academy, his success was meteoric.  His first exhibit Good News, caught the attention of the art world, and the following year the prince regent bought The Country Choristers.   Three years later Bird was made historical painter to Princess Charlotte and in 1815 he was created a member of the Royal Academy.

The Landing of Louis XVIII at Calais

Edward Bird, The Landing of Louis XVIII at Calais, oil on panel.

One of his commissions was to paint a set of pictures showing the progress of the Bourbon restoration to the French throne after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814.   One of which, The Landing of Louis XVIII at Calais is currently on display at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.  It shows the king’s supporters in white, the colour of the French Monarchist party.

Sources

Edward Bird at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Jane Toller, Papier-mâché in Great Britain and America

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