John Glover, POWS SBA (1767-1849) John Glover rose from rural obscurity to gain a reputation as a landscape painter second only to J M W Turner. He also proved highly influential, both directly as a teacher of professionals and amateurs in England, and then as an inspiration to newly-established artists in Australia. Mastering a variety of techniques, he was able to capture a wide range of atmospheric effects, though increasingly he gave watercolour the weight and intensity of oil, in order to emulate the Claudean tradition. Most characteristic – and popular – was his use of the ‘split brush’, in which watercolour was applied briskly with divided bristles in order to represent foliage. The son of an impoverished farmer, John Glover was born at Houghton on the Hill, Leicestershire, on 18 February 1767. He had two club feet, but worked in the fields as a youth and was extremely agile and active throughout his life.
His experience of farming also instilled in him a great love of birds, animals and nature in general.
A proficient calligrapher, Glover was appointed writing- master at the Free School in Appleby, Westmoreland, in 1786. Soon, he began to paint professionally and, in order to expand his artistic horizons, made visits to London; while there, he went to exhibitions and took lessons in watercolour, certainly from William Payne and possibly from John ‘Warwick’ Smith.
Marrying in 1790, Glover became father of his first child, John Richardson Glover, in the same year; both John Richardson and a brother, William, would follow in their father’s footsteps to become landscape painters.
In 1794, Glover set up as a drawing master in Lichfield, Staffordshire, teaching Henry Curzon Allport and Henry Salt – among others – and passing his ‘split brush’ technique onto them. During his time in the town, he entered the circle of the poet, Anna Seward, known as ‘the Swan of Lichfield’.
Developing a reputation as a landscape watercolourist, Glover sent drawings each year for exhibition in London and, from 1795, also began to show oils at the Royal Academy of Arts. Though much of the period 1795-99 was taken up with making sketching tours through Britain, he then exhibited regularly; soon, he appeared to many contemporaries as the chief rival to J M W Turner – much to the irritation of John Constable.
A founder member of the Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1804, Glover took a house in London – at 3 Montague Square – in 1805, following the success of its first exhibition, in which his works were more highly priced than those of any competitor. He was elected President in 1807, and again in 1814-15, during the period in which he was instrumental in its short-lived reconstruction as the Society for Painters in Oil and Water-Colours. At the same time, in 1814, he became the first English artist to be awarded a gold medal at the Paris Salon. In 1817, he withdrew from the Society of Painters in Water Colours in order to make his (unsuccessful) bid for election to the Royal Academy.
Shortly after his resignation, Glover moved to Blowick Farm, a property near Patterdale, Ullswater, in the Lake District. However, a year later, he set out on a tour of Switzerland and Italy with H C Allport; and would sell the property to buy a work by Claude Lorrain.
Between 1820 and 1824, Glover held a number of solo shows in London; these emphasised the traditional nature of his work by placing it among pictures by Claude Lorrain and Richard Wilson and his own copies of seventeenth century landscapes. In 1823, he also helped inaugurate the Society of British Artists.
In 1830, Glover decided to follow his three younger sons to Van Diemen’s Land (now known as Tasmania). He was joined by his wife and eldest son, while his two married daughters remained in England. Arriving in Hobart on 1 April 1831, he used the substantial profit from the sale of both his pictures and his house (at 16 Montague Square) to purchase a large estate at Mill’s Plain, at the foot of Ben Lomond, east of Launceston – an estate he nostalgically named Patterdale. Painting the local scenery and inhabitants, as well as farming sheep, he sent pictures to various London exhibitions, including a solo show. However, he probably had a greater influence on the development of Australian art. He died on his estate on 9 December 1849.
His work is represented in numerous public collections, including Tate and the V&A; The Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge), Leeds Art Gallery and Tyne & Wear Museums; and the Art Gallery of New South Wales (Sydney), the Art Gallery of South Australia (Adelaide), the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (Launceston) and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (Hobart).
Further reading: Patrick Conner, ‘Glover, John (b Houghton-on-the-Hill, Leics, 18 Feb 1767; d Launceston, Tasmania, 9 Dec 1849)’, Jane Turner (ed), The Dictionary of Art, London: Macmillan, 1996, vol 12, pages 820-821; Robert Dingley, ‘Glover, John (1767-1849)’, H C G Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, vol 22, pages 489-490; David Hansen, John Glover and the Colonial Picturesque, Hobart: Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery 2003; Basil Somerset Long, ‘John Glover’, Walker’s Quarterly, 1924; John McPhee, The Art of John Glover, South Melbourne: Macmillan, 1980; John McPhee, John Glover, Launceston: Australian Gallery Directors’ Council, 1977; Hammond Smith, ‘John Glover, OWCS. 1769-1849’, Old Watercolour Society’s Club, vol 57, 1982, pages 7-21