William Simpson

During the Crimean War Simpson, became a pioneer war artist: dispatched by the printsellers Colnaghi & Son, to record the naval battles in the Baltic Sea and then went on to Balaklava in November 1854 to make accurate sketches on the spot. The drawings which he made during that terrible winter were submitted to Lord Raglan, sent home to England, and shown to Queen Victoria by the minister of war, the duke of Newcastle. After the fall of Sevastopol he was attached to the duke’s party of exploration in Circassia. Eighty of his Crimean drawings were lithographed in The Seat of War in the East (2 volumes, 1855 6), which was dedicated with permission to Queen Victoria. When the original watercolours were exhibited at Colnaghi’s gallery, Lord Elcho and other MPs called for them to be bought by the nation as a historic record of the war. On the advice of Sir Charles Eastlake, this proposal was rejected and the watercolours were sold off separately. Simpson returned to England with a brown beard long enough to button into his waistcoat, and he had an audience with the queen: he showed her his sketches and was much impressed by her grasp of every detail of the war. She commissioned The Queen Reviewing the Royal Artillery at Woolwich on their Return from the Crimea, 1856, and over the next thirty years was a steady patron for the painter. source Shapero Rare Books.

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