Henry Bright, NWS (1810-1873) With his free handling and fresh palette, Henry Bright developed a style that proved perfect to capture his home ground of East Anglia. However, as the present example suggests, he was adept at recording a range of landscapes during extensive travels.
The son of a clockmaker and jeweller, Henry Bright was born in Saxmundham, Suffolk, probably on 5 June 1810. However, ‘both his death certificate and gravestone state that he was fifty-nine when he died’ (Fenwick 2004, page 620), which suggests that he was born in 1814. After a local schooling, he began an apprenticeship with a chemist in Woodbridge. Moving to Norwich, he worked for the chemist and soda water manufacturer, Paul Squires, before becoming a dispenser at Norfolk and Norwich hospital.
When Squires began to introduce him to the local artistic circle, he decided that he too would become an artist and, with the agreement of his parents, transferred his indentures to the marine and coastal painter, Alfred Stannard. He may also have taken lessons from John Sell Cotman and John Berney Crome.
Marrying in 1833, Bright moved with his family to Paddington, London, in 1836, and began to exhibit oils and watercolours with various societies He was a member of the New Society of Painters in Water-Colours, from 1839 to 1845, and of the Graphic Society from 1847 to 1853. Best known for his views of East Anglia, he made regular sketching tours throughout Britain, and also visited France, the Netherlands and various German states, including Prussia. He also built up a highly successful practice as a drawing master, taking on the pupils of James Duffield Harding, a friend and influence. Those who studied with him ranged from the Grand Duchess Marie of Russia to the Norwich artist, John Middleton.
At the time that his wife died on 24 August 1848, Bright was living at Grove Cottage, Ealing. Then early in the 1850s, he and his daughters moved to St John’s Wood. He maintained close contact with his home county, becoming a Vice-President of the Suffolk Fine Art Association by 1850, and returning to Saxmundham to live at his brother’s house, Park Lodge, in 1858. However, in 1860, he moved south again, to Redhill, Surrey, before commencing a somewhat peripatetic stage of his life. Eventually, he would settle in Ipswich, living with a niece from 1870, and dying at her home on 21 September 1873.
His work is represented in numerous public collections, including Colchester & Ipswich Museums Service, Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery and York Art Gallery.
Further reading: Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton, Henry Bright, 1818-1873. Paintings and Drawings in Norwich Castle Museum, Norwich: Norfolk Museums Service, 1986; Simon Fenwick, ‘Bright, Henry (1810?-1873)’, H C G Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, vol 7, page 620