George Price Boyce

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George Price Boyce

English painter

Born 9/24/1826 - Died 2/9/1897

  • Artworks
  • Biography
  • Relationships
  • Letters
  • Images of the Artist


GEORGE PRICE BOYCE was the elder brother of the brilliant, and tragic Joanna Boyce, the great woman painter who died in her early thirties with her potential unfulfilled. This remains one of the great losses to English art of the nineteenth century.

George Boyce was initially training as an architect. Following a meeting with the artist David Cox, he decided that his real interest was in painting, and resolved to train as an artist. His father supported him in this change, as he also supported the artistic aspirations of his talented daughter. David Cox, whom Boyce met in 1849, was also instrumental in this new direction, and seems to have been his artistic mentor. He became a close friend of Rossetti, and member of his circle. He and had a close friendship with Fanny Cornforth, with whom I think he had a sexual relationship. He remembered her cheerful personality with warmth and affection in his diaries, not denying her existence like William Rossetti. Boyce’s diaries, published in the 1940s are a valuable source of information about the Pre-Raphaelites. He became an Associate of the Royal Water Colour Society in 1864, and a full member in 1877, which was felt by many people to be extremely late recognition of his considerable talent as a landscape painter. His watercolour landscapes are accomplished and beautiful. George Boyce was unmarried.

Death Notice
The Times, Thursday February 11, 1897

BOYCE : On 9 th inst at his residence, West House, Glebe-place, Chelsea after a long illness George Price Boyce, retired Member of the Royal Water Colour Society in his 71 st year. Funeral Service at St Luke’s Church, Sydney-street, Chelsea at 12 0’clock Saturday 13 inst.

The Times, Friday February 12, 1897

The death is announced of Mr GEORGE PRICE BOYCE who died on the 9th inst at his residence West-house, Glebe-place, Chelsea, after a long illness. The Athenaeum says: He was the eldest child of Mr George Boyce and his wife Anne Price, and was born in Bloomsbury on September 24, 1826. He went to school at Chipping Ongar, and afterwards stayed for a considerable time in Paris. Proposing to become an architect, he was articled to the late Mr Little, but becoming convinced his vocation lay elsewhere, he made a lengthened tour in North Wales in 1849, and encountered David Cox at the Royal Oak at Bettws-y-Coed. In 1851 he was again in Wales, where he made several of those beautiful studies upon which his reputation in after life was founded.

Before this he became intimate with several artists, such as Mr H. T. Wells (Henry Wells RA 1828-1903), who married his sister Joanna, herself an accomplished painter, and he found himself drawn in to a distinguished circle. A second meeting with Cox at Bettws confirmed him in his new departure, and on returning to London in the winter of 1852 he took a studio in Great Russell-street, and, joining the long renowned Clipstone-street Academy, studied much from life and tried his hand at oil painting. Some time before this, Boyce, possibly by means of Mr Wells, was, we believe, brought into contact with Rossetti while he was finishing the Mary, Virgin picture, or that Ecce Ancilla Domini! now in the National Gallery. The date of this introduction is doubtful - it may have been 1849, or even later - but the effect on Boyce was such that he became an enthusiastic friend of the great artist, although their characters were entirely different, bought some of his pictures, and always regarded him with a most unusual affection. On Boyce’s style of painting, on the other hand, , Rossetti had no influence.

In 1853 Boyce was at Dinant, and visited the Pyrenees and Babbicombe Bay, where he produced some charming water-colours. In this year, too, he made his first appearance London exhibitions, sending to Suffolk-street The Royal Oak, Bettws-y-Coed (a reminiscence of Cox), and Beeches, and to the Academy Timber Yard, Chiddingstone, and East-end of Edward Confessor’s Chapel, Westminster. He repeated the last subject more than once. In 1854 Boyce was studying in Switzerland, at Ticino, Milan, Venice, and Verona, where he made a fine drawing of the tombs of the Can Grande and Mastino. In 1855 he was again in London, drawing at Langham Chambers School, and again visited North Wales. In 1856 he moved from Great Russell-street to 15, Buckingham Street, Strand, and had William Burges for his fellow-lodger.

Later in the same year we find him painting at Airolo and Giornico. In 1858 Boyce became a founder member of the original Hogarth Club, whose rooms were in Piccadilly and Waterloo-place. Among the members were Street, W. Burges, Madox Brown, A. D. Fripp, Lord Leighton, D. G. Rossetti, and [Thomas] Woolner [1825-1892, English sculptor & poet]; and of men still living Sir E. Burne-Jones, Sir F. Burton, and Mr Wallis. To the private exhibitions of this society Boyce contributed, as he had previously done to the collection of Pre-Raphaelites held in Russell-place, Fitzroy-square. In successive years we find him busily painting at Streatley, of which he was one of the discoverers, and long before P. Walker and his friends drew attention to it; at Whitby, where he made drawings before Alfred Hunt went there, at Rievaulx and Whitwell. Some of the results of these visits were exhibited at the Academy and enhanced his reputation. In the autumn of 1861 he went to Egypt, with Mr F. Dillon (Frank Dillon R1 1823-1909), as his companion, and remained for six months. In 1864 he was elected an Associate of the Old Society, and thenceforth an almost constant contributor of drawings, always beautiful, delicate, and unobtrusive, which were conspicuous for their fidelity and unaffected simplicity. The simple “Englishness” of their technique was almost demure in its graceful modesty. A less unassuming man would have held a place among the leaders of the “Old Society,” and it was hardly to their credit that so fine and sound an artist remained an Associate until 1878. Personally Boyce was like his pictures - modest almost to a fault, undemonstrative and sincere. Highly cultivated, he found in art his chief occupation and resource. He was also an excellent amateur musician, and at one time a good oarsman.

Our thanks go to Paul Ripley for kindly allowing us to reprint these articles from his website, Victorian Art in Britain.


brother of

  • Wells, Joanna Mary (1831-1861)

friend of

sister of

  • Wells, Joanna Mary (1831-1861)


associate member of

  • Royal Watercolour Society from 1864

founder of

  • Hogarth Club from 1858

full member of

  • Royal Watercolour Society from 1877

student at

  • Chipping Ongar
  • Langham Chambers School

[To Mrs. Toynbee: page 1]

Abinger Hatch, Near Dorking, Surrey
Nov. 7, 1866

Dear Mrs. Toynbee,
Amongst the sketches and studies that I think of sending to the Winter Expo at the W. Colour Gallery, there are two (a cornfield at Goring on a showery day & a night sketch of Blackfriars bridge) that Mr. Toynbee, whom I have often in sorrowful remembrance, asked me to reserve for him. Would you like to have them or prefer to forgo them? Decide, I beg you, just as you feel most

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Image courtesy of Don Kurtz

[To Mrs. Toynbee: page 2]

inclined. On the back of one of the two - the cornfield I think - I recall his penciling his name on his last visit with you to my studio & there it is still, I believe, unerased. Also, in the event of my wishing to exhibit too, that little Streatley Hill sunset (which I trust duly reached you) would you kindly lend it to me for the purpose? Perhaps an easy opportunity may occur of sending it to Blackfriars or to Foord and Dickinson's for me before the 14th inst. If so, I would be glad. If not, I should

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Image courtesy of Don Kurtz

[To Mrs. Toynbee: page 3]

send for it myself. As regards my painting, it has been a most disastrous year this. Since I left London at the beginning of August, I have been almost incipiently bent by wind and rain of no gentle kind. Arisaig on the western coast of Scotland when I was fortunate enough to meet with Mr. Bowman & his family & Washington, between Newcastle & Dunham, were my two halting places. On reaching town, I came on here without delay in order to get if possible at least one small drawing done before

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Image courtesy of Don Kurtz

[To Mrs. Toynbee: page 4]

the last leaf would fall. Hoping very soon to see you - and yours - at Wimbledon & at Blackfriars. Likewise should you feel disposed to pay me a visit there.

Believe me
Sincerely yours
George P. Boyce
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Image courtesy of Don Kurtz