The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Samuel Prout, 1783-1852

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1783.09.17
Place of Birth: Plymouth, Devon
Date of Death: 1852.02.10
Place of Death: Camberwell


Samuel Prout was a topographical watercolourist and painter of architectural subjects.


Prout was educated at Plymouth Grammar School, where he met B. R. Haydon, a fellow pupil, through whom he came into contact with the antiquary John Britton. Britton employed Prout to make drawings of local architecture. In 1803-4 Prout was commissioned by him to make drawings for his Beauties of England and Wales. In London Prout also studied the work of Turner, Girtin and Cozens, and produced his own architectural, landscape and coastal scenes. In 1813 he published Rudiments of Landscape in Progressive Studies, one of eighteen publications he brought out before 1844. His pupils included J. D. Harding.

Prout exhibited in London between 1803 and 1827 at the Royal Academy, British Institution and Old Water Colour Society. In 1819 he was elected a member of the latter society. He had become a member of the Associated Artists in Watercolours in 1810.

From 1819 Prout began producing architectural views of French, Belgian, German and Italian towns. These were mannered rather than accurate in observation. However, John Ruskin declared in the first volume of Modern Painters, 'There is no stone drawing, no vitality of architecture like Prout's'.

In 1878 JW began making notes from Ruskin's writings in preparation for the Whistler v Ruskin libel trial. Later, he also made annotations from Notes by Mr Ruskin on Samuel Prout and William Hunt in illustration of a loan collection of drawings exhibited at the Fine Arts Society's galleries, in 1879-80 (1880), and copied a section in which Ruskin wrote, 'I repeat there is nothing but the work of Prout which is true, living, or right, in its general impression, and nothing, therefore, so inexhaustably agreeable' (#06760, #06764). However, according to JW, 'The great people always bought Canaletto not Prout' (#06813).


E. G. Halton, 'The Life and Art of Samuel Prout', Studio Special, winter 1914-1915, pp. 1-26; Quigle, J., Prout and Roberts, 1926; Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Wood, Christopher, Dictionary of Victorian Painters, Woodbridge, 1971.