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The Visit of the Artist Frank Stone

Norma Hampson is a long-standing volunteer at the Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive and has written this blog to share details from her current project: listing visitors from the early Birthplace visitor books. Today, meet the water-colourist Frank Stone.

Norma Hampson

On the 22nd of May 1857 Frank Stone, an English water-colourist visited the Birthplace. He was born in Manchester, the son of a cotton spinner and was entirely self-taught. He is said "never to have studied under any master or even to have received a drawing lesson at school".

Frank Stone

Having followed his father’s occupation for some years he decided, at the age of 24, to pursue his artistic inclinations and subsequently moved to London in 1831. His earliest work consisted of making pencil drawings to be engraved by Charles Heath in the Book of Beauty, for which he received five guineas each.   In 1833, he was elected an Associate of the Society of Painters in Watercolour, becoming a Member in 1843 and an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1851.  The first works to be exhibited at the Royal Academy were portraits, but from 1840 on he included scenes from Shakespeare, scripture, and sentimental subjects, many of which were engraved and proved to be both popular and successful.

Charles Heath the engraver (1785-1848). By kind permission of J.J. Heath-Caldwell.

He painted with careful attention to matters of technique, the characteristics of art being described as "combination of technical elaboration with a definite predilection for beauty of a physical type". He was very critical of the innovations of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and led the opposition within the Royal academy against their work.

According to the 1851 Census, he was living with his wife, two sons, and two daughters at Tavistock House, Tavistock Square, London, a house later occupied by Charles Dickens (a close friend whom he frequently assisted in theatricals).  Whilst at this address, between 1852–1856, Dickens wrote Bleak House, Hard Times, and Little Dorrit.  Many of his works were illustrated by Marcus Stone, son of Frank, who himself had produced a frontispiece for an edition of Martin Chuzzlewit.

Frank Stone died on 18 November 1859 at Russell House, Tavistock Square. His will was proved by his artist friends William Powell Frith and Augustus Leopold Egg. He was buried in Highgate Cemetery, London.

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