Henry Nelson

Henry Nelson also known as Henry Nelson O’Neil was a great painter who concentrated mostly in the historical genre and was a minor Victorian writer. Henry Nelson had primarily worked with historical and literary subjects, but the best-known paintings from Henry deal with the “Indian Mutiny. Eastward, Ho!”

Henry Nelson

The painting was dated as for August 1857, but it was not published until the following year. It depicted the British troops that were embarking for India. There was also a second painting named “Home Again” from 1859, that showed the troops returning from India.

Henry Nelson

Henry Nelson also had popular successes with various romantic scenes that portrayed the deaths of Mozart and Raphael and depicted them as if they were transported to heaven through their religious art.

“The Last Moments of Mozart” would show the dying composer listening to singers performing a part of the Requiem, while “The Last Moments of Raphael” showed that the painter was contemplating about the unseen figure of Christ in his Transfiguration.

Henry Nelson
O’Neil, Henry Nelson; Painting con Amore; Hospitalfield Arts

O’Neil was also a member of the Clique. It was a group of artists in the 1840s who were much like the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood formed afterward. The group would meet together to discuss and criticize the works of one another.

There were other members of the Clique like Alfred Elmore, Augustus Egg, William Powell Frith, Richard Dadd, Edward Matthew Ward, and John Phillip.

Henry Nelson Detailed Biography

Most of the Clique was very much opposed to the Pre-Raphaelites. However, O’Neil could be said to have been the most virulent in his condemnation of the movement. He had attacked them both in paintings and writings.

Henry Nelson

Among them was the futuristic fantasy 2000 Years Hence, where an archaeologist from New Zealand can be found to be excavating the frozen wasteland that would be Britain in the year 3867.

The archaeologist would uncover the mysteries of the decline of the culture and thus allowed O’Neil to vent his distinct reactionary political view by trying to predict the dire consequences of the Reform Act of 1867.

Life and Career of Henry Nelson

Henry Nelson was born of British parentage on January 7, 1817, at St. Petersburg. O’Neil had come to England in 1823, along with his family. In 1836, he became a student at the Royal Academy and had sent his first picture in 1838 as a part of the Royal Academy exhibition.

During this phase, he had made close friends with Alfred Elmore, with whom he had visited Italy later in his life. Soon afterward, he had joined the Clique along with fellow artists like Frith, Phillip, Egg, and Dadd.

Henry Nelson

They began pursuing modern life subjects that possessed a strong emotional component. The “Eastward Ho!” was actually composed to depict the soldiers leaving their families to quell the Indian Mutiny.

The popularity of the painting was because of its contemporaneity and the appeal to patriotic favor in the wake of the Crimean War. It focused on the military side of domestic life.

Style of Paintings by Henry Nelson

O’Neil had made several replicas of the painting. The paintings were widely disseminated through engravings and had been adapted as a theatrical tableau. The sequel to the painting “Home Again” contained many of the same characters that were featured in the prequel.

This painting was, however, not so enthusiastically received. O’ Neil tried to avoid the darker side of the modern life. Thus the subject matter led to works like “The Parting Cheer”. In the painting, immigration is shown as a cause of excitement and not despair.

Henry Nelson
O’Neil, Henry Nelson; The Landing of HRH Princess Alexandra at Gravesend, 7th March 1863; National Portrait Gallery, London

Henry had also created paintings that depicted British history. There are also paintings from literature, the Bible and of course, the history of art. Instances can be taken of “The Last Moments of Raphael”. The choice of subjects taken up by Henry seemed to be striking, but his composition was faulty most of the times.

Henry Nelson Paintings 

Although he became an A.R.A. or Associate member of the Royal Academy in 1860, he could never become an elected member of the Royal Academy (R.A.), though hundreds of his works were exhibited at the Royal Academy.

Henry Nelson

Among the most notable of the works by Henry Nelson is The Landing of H.R.H Princess Alexandra at Gravesend, which was released on March 7, 1863. There were also others like The Trial of Katherine of Aragon, Eastward Ho!, Home Again and the Battle of Waterloo.

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