Biography of Frederick Richard Lee
Lee’s reputation as a landscape artist was at its height from the early 1830’s until the late 1850s. In the earlier period, his artist colleagues and the press art reviewers alike rated his work higher than John Constable, who jealously expressed his dislike of Lee’s work in a number of letters, but who eventually admitted to Lee’s popularity. In the late 1840s Lee’s reputation was revived by his collaborations with Thomas Sidney Cooper R.A. – Lee painting the landscapes into which Cooper added cattle and sheep. All aspects of Lee’s career as a landscape painter and his relationships with his clientele are dealt with in great detail. This comprehensive biography is also supplemented by details of Lee’s great interest in shooting and fishing. He was often a guest at many of the finest estates in Great Britain which also often resulted in commissions for paintings.
Lee’s previously little known interest in photography is also recorded here and, for the first time, examples from the author’s collection of his rare mid-nineteenth century albumen prints, often utilised for his paintings, are illustrated. Other photographs known to have been taken by Lee, but yet to be discovered, are also described.
By the late 1850s, revenue from his paintings, the sale of his house in Penshurst and various inheritances, combined to make Lee a wealthy man and he decided to purchase a yacht. Details of his adventurous yacht voyages, from the late 1850s until 1879, were previously only known from brief nineteenth century newspaper reports. He was a member of both the Royal Western Yacht Club in Plymouth (from 1864) and The Royal Yacht Squadron on the Isle of Wight (from 1872). Lee’s Journals, which have been located, provide details of early voyages around the British Isles and to the Baltic and sightseeing in Russia, with descriptions of stops on later trips at Madeira and Tenerife en route to Cape Town. Lee’s many voyages around South Africa included sailing to Mauritius and Port Elizabeth, where he was made an Honorary Member of the Port Elizabeth Yacht Club are included. Other longer voyages to Australia, Tasmania and the West Indies are fully recorded.
Although by the time of these later yachting voyages, Lee had stopped painting, he took a number of previously unsold works to Cape Town, where he sold them, and all are documented here. His family life through two marriages is recorded, and particularly the lives of his three grandsons who sailed with him and for whom he bought farms in South Africa, where he eventually died aged 80 years old.