Charles Bentley, OWS (1806-1854)
In engraving works by Richard Parkes Bonington, Charles Bentley learned much about the art of watercolour. The resulting coastal scenes and seascapes – fresh with the salt breeze – have been ranked with those of Copley Fielding and his friend,
Charles Bentley was born in Tottenham Court Road, London, the son of a carpenter, and is possibly the child baptised at St James’s, Paddington, on 24 August 1806.
In about 1819, Bentley was apprenticed as an engraver to Theodore Fielding, and went on to work in Paris with his brother, Newton Fielding, with whom he engraved a number of watercolours by Richard Parkes Bonington. This experience had a profound influence
on his own development as a watercolourist, as did the work of William Callow, who was also apprenticed to the Fielding brothers, and became a close friend.
In 1827, Bentley set up as an engraver, and worked as an illustrator, though with little financial success. Concentrating instead on watercolour, he was elected an associate of the Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1834, and a full member nine years later. Over thirty years, he exhibited 209 works with the society, also showing work at the Society of British Artists and the New Society of Painters in Water Colours.
Many of these exhibits were the fruits of extensive travels that Bentley made around the coasts of the British Isles, and to the Channel Islands and Normandy – the last in the company of Callow in 1836, 1840 and 1841. Between 1843 and 1846, he shared Callow’s home and studio at 20 Charlotte Street (now Hallam Street), before returning to his own
address, 11 Mornington Place, Hampstead Road.
A poor businessman, ever in financial difficulties, Bentley left his wife and mother in near poverty when he died at home, of cholera, on 4 September 1854.
His studio sale was held at Christie’s on 16 April 1855.
His work is represented in numerous public collections, including the British Museum and the V&A; and The Whitworth Art Gallery (Manchester).