The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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George Price Boyce, 1826-1897

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1826.09.24
Place of Birth: Bloomsbury, London
Date of Death: 1897.02.09
Place of Death: West House, Glebe Place, Chelsea, London


George Price Boyce, son of a prosperous wine merchant and pawnbroker, was the eldest of five children. His sister Joanna Mary Boyce, who married the portraitist Henry Tanworth Wells, became a well known artist, but died giving birth to her third child in 1861. G. P. Boyce married in 1875.


Boyce was a landscape and typographical painter and watercolourist. However, he began his career in architecture, becoming apprenticed to the firm of architects Wyatt and Brandon in 1846. In 1849 he met David Cox at Betws-y-Coed and decided to become an artist.

His landscape and architectural subjects in watercolour from the early 1850s were heavily influenced by Cox. He travelled to Italy in 1854 where he painted views of Venice and Verona as recommended by Ruskin. Returning home, he painted detailed naturalistic depictions influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and the theories of Ruskin. However, whilst in Italy he had painted a number of semi-abstract twilight studies and from about 1860 he began painting watercolours of the Thames at night, in this way anticipating Whistler's Nocturnes of the 1870s. Boyce was a founder member of the Hogarth Club in 1858, and was elected an associate of the Old Watercolour Society in 1864 and a full member in 1878.

Boyce kept a diary from 1851 to 1875 which provides valuable insight into the activities of his circle of painter friends. Boyce met Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1849 and they became close friends. He acquired many of Rossetti's early drawings, including How They Met Themselves, and commissioned the oil Bocca Baciata in 1859. From 1863 Boyce lived in the rooms in Chatham Place, Blackfriars that Rossetti had vacated after the death of his wife. In 1863 Whistler was a frequent visitor, and in February of that year began an etching looking out from one of the windows of the flat. In 1868 Boyce commissioned Webb to build him a house in Chelsea in order to be closer to the artist coterie there which included both Rossetti and Whistler. West House was completed in 1870.

In his life time Boyce formed an extensive collection of paintings from the works of artists within and without his circle, John Everett Millais, Edward Burne-Jones, Edward Poynter, Frederic Leighton, Thomas Seddon, William Henry Hunt, John Inchbold and Charles Keene.


Street, A. E., 'George Price Boyce, RWS', Architectural Review, vol. 5, 1899, pp. 151-60; Davies, R., 'Extracts from Boyce's Diaries 1851-75', Old Watercolour Society Club, vol. 19, 1941, pp. 1-71; Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Surtees, Virginia (ed.), The Diaries of George Price Boyce, Norwich, 1980; Newall, Christopher and J. Egerton, George Price Boyce London, 1987; Newall, Christopher, 'George Price Boyce', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 21 December 2001).