BONINGTON, Richard Parkes
(b. 1802, Arnold, d. 1828, London)
English painter, active mainly in France, where his family moved when he was 15. In 1819 he went to Paris, where he became a pupil of Gros and formed a friendship with Delacroix. He was influenced by the medievalism and orientalism of the French Romantics and produced paintings in their manner. However, he established his reputation as a landscapist, particularly with his works exhibited at the Salon of 1822 and the so-called 'English' Salon of 1824, at which his own paintings (which won him a gold medal) and those of Constable were the star attractions.
In 1825 he accompanied Delacroix to England and sought out pictures by Constable, whose influence is apparent in his subsequent work, and in 1826 he visited Italy, producing some of his finest work in Venice. Bonington was overloaded with work and his delicate health suffered; he died of consumption in London a month before his 26th birthday.
Although his career was so brief, Bonington was highly influential, the freshness and spontaneity of his fluid style in both oil and watercolours attracting many imitators. Delacroix wrote of him: 'Other artists were perhaps more powerful or more accurate than Bonington, but no one in the modern school, perhaps no earlier artist, possessed the lightness of execution, which makes his works, in a certain sense, diamonds, by which the eye is enticed and charmed independently of the subject or of imitative appeal.' These qualities are particularly apparent in the 'pochades' (oil sketches done rapidly on the spot as records of transitory effects in nature), a fashion which he together with Turner and Constable was instrumental in establishing. The best collection of Bonington's work is in the Wallace Collection, London, and he is also well represented in the City Museum and Art Gallery at Nottingham, his home town.