George William Mote (1832-1909) The landscape artist, George William Mote, may have taught himself to paint, and certainly developed a distinctively direct style in order to evoke rural life in England and Wales. Patronised by the great collector, Sir Thomas Phillipps, in Worcestershire in the 1860s, he later settled in Surrey, and made its hilly vistas very much his own.
George William Mote was born in Rowley Green, near Barnet, hertfordshire, the younger of two children of Samuel Mote and his wife, Frances Lucy (née Goodwin), who seem to have separated or divorced early in his childhood. By 1841, Samuel Mote had returned, with his two children, Frances and George, to his own birthplace of Walworth, south of the Thames. They were living at Ebenezer Place, close to Kennington Common (now Kennington Park), and he was working as a ‘cordwainer’ (a shoemaker). Meanwhile, his wife, Frances, was housekeeper to a Mr John Innes, at Drivers Hill, Hendon.
It is not known where Mote was educated, or whether he studied art.
He began to exhibit intermittently at the Royal Academy in 1857, with the oil painting, Greenwich Park and Hospital (The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley), while he was living at 15 Gloucester Street, Gloucester-Gate, Regent’s Park (now Albert Street). Two years later, he showed Getting up an Anchor at Spithead (National Museum Wales), while he was living at 74 Newman Street, in the artists’ quarter north of Oxford Street.
By 1860, Mote had moved to Broadway, in Worcestershire, and was benefiting from the patronage of Sir Thomas Phillipps, the great bibliophile and collector, especially of manuscripts. In that year he married Phebe (possibly née Moss), from Whilton in Northamptonshire, and they settled at Broadway Tower, the folly designed by James Wyatt for Lady Coventry at the end of the eighteenth century. It has been said that Mote was ‘gardener and caretaker to Sir Thomas’ (Wood 1978, page 331), though these may have been honorary positions, allowing him the freedom to paint. In 1862, Sir Thomas Phillipps printed a list of his collection of art, entitled Pictures at Middle Hill, which included eight works by Mote: seven of Middle hill (five of which Phillipps had commissioned), plus one of the Tower of London. during his period in Broadway, Mote continued to exhibit occasionally at the RA.
In 1867, George and Phebe Mote settled at 32 Stanhope Street, London. however, four years later, they moved to the village of Ewhurst, in Surrey, and this would remain their base for the rest of their lives. The Surrey countryside provided the subjects of many of Mote’s later paintings, and gave access to Brighton and resorts in Kent. Ewhurst is five miles south of Shere, the home of Mote’s sister, Frances, who had married the builder and carpenter, John Norton, and their father, Samuel, who had become a vine pruner and nurseryman (and died in 1878).
Following a brief period at Lansdowne Hill, Lower Norwood, in South London, in the mid 1870s, George and Phebe Mote moved into heath house, Ewhurst, which would be their final home. His last recorded exhibit was at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1880, though he continued to paint. His mother seems to have moved closer to him, dying in Guildford in 1895. his wife, Phebe, died in 1903, and he died, in Ewhurst, on 6 January 1909. His probate was to the artist, Adah Stuart Franks.