(b. 1793, Sunderland, d. 1867, Hampstead)


English painter and scenographer. The son of Mary Hoad and James Field Stanfield, an Irish actor and author, he was apprenticed to a heraldic coach painter at the age of 12, but in 1808 he abandoned this and went to sea in a collier. In 1812 he was press-ganged and spent two years on HMS Namur, the guard-ship at Sheerness. After being discharged as the result of an injury in 1814, he joined the merchant navy, sailing to China in the Indiaman Warley in 1815. Soon after his return in 1816 he missed his ship and became a scene painter, first at the Royalty Theatre, Stepney, and then at the Royal Coburg, Lambeth. There he was later joined by David Roberts, who became a lifelong friend, and in 1822 both men were employed as scene painters at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

During the next 12 years Stanfield established himself as the most talented scene painter of his day, causing a sensation with some of his huge moving dioramas such as the scenes of Venice in the pantomime Harlequin and Little Thumb (1831). Meanwhile he was building an equally impressive reputation as an easel painter. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1820 and continued to exhibit there regularly until his death. He was elected ARA in 1832 and RA in 1835. He was a founder-member of the Society of British Artists and became its president in 1829. Between 1824 and 1851 he traveled extensively throughout Europe (Italy, Holland, France, Spain).

Stanfield was regarded as the greatest British marine artist of his day. His most impressive work is the vast Battle of Trafalgar (1836; London, United Services Club). In addition to his oil paintings, Stanfield produced many watercolours, the best of which have the spontaneity of watercolours by Bonington, an artist he much admired. He also furnished illustrations for several books.

In 1847 he and his family moved into the Green-Hill, a large house in Hampstead. It became a meeting-place for writers and artists including William Makepeace Thackeray, Edwin Henry Landseer, C. R. Leslie and Charles Dickens, a devoted friend. Stanfield also contributed illustrations to Dickens's Christmas books and designed sets for his amateur theatricals.

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