George Sheffield is best remembered for his monochrome coastal scenes, which were admired by his contemporaries. George Sheffield was born in Wigton, Cumberland, on 1 January 1839, the son of Thomas Sheffield, a draper, and his wife Jane (née Johnston). He was named after his uncle, George Sheffield, a portrait painter with a local reputation; and was initially encouraged both by him and William Henry Hoodless, another Wigton artist. However, while still very young, he moved with his father to Warrington, then in Lancashire, and studied at Warrington School of Art alongside Luke Fildes.
Settling in Manchester, Sheffield trained as a pattern maker at a firm of calico printers, said to be ‘Messrs Charlie and Franks’. He was a skilful designer, but proved to be more interested in the painting classes that he attended at Manchester School of Art.
Of a restless disposition, Sheffield first chose to become a sailor, voyaging to Holland and Belgium, and across the Atlantic. Then, when he retired from the sea, he turned his attention to painting, producing landscapes and seascapes in oil and watercolour, most notably in monochrome.
For a while, he lived in the popular artists’ colony of Bettws-y-Coed, Caernarvonshire. From there, he contributed to exhibitions in Manchester, including those at the Royal Institution and the Academy of Fine Arts. He became an associate of the latter in 1869, and an academician in 1871. He was also an active member of Manchester Arts Club and Manchester Literary Club. In addition, he exhibited six works at the Royal Academy between 1872 and 1890, and 11 at other London exhibitions.
Sheffield moved to Chapel Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, in about 1871, and a decade later to Harold Tower, Douglas, on the Isle of Man, which was the birthplace of his wife (née Bridson). While living there, he mentored the Art Nouveau designer and painter, Archibald Knox. Returning to Wilmslow in about 1884, he died in Ancoats Hospital, Manchester, on 2 October 1892. His wife predeceased him; eight children survived him.
His work is represented in numerous public collections, including Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery (Carlisle).