Morland, George Charles
Outside a Country Alehouse
A child prodigy as an artist, George Morland was born on 26 June 1763. His father, Henry Robert Morland, was a London artist and art dealer whose ability as a painter was soon overtaken by his son: George’s sketches were exhibited at the Royal Academy when he was aged ten.
Realising his son’s talent, Henry Morland bound him as an apprentice for seven years requiring George to spend much of his time painting subjects which he could then sell or have engraved.
Parting company with his father at about the time he entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1784, George Morland already had a reputation for leading a debauched but cheerful life with kindred spirits in the meaner parts of London. In 1786 he married a sister of the artist James Ward (q.v.) and his brother, the engraver, William Ward. The latter married Morland’s sister and, for a short time, they all lived together in Marylebone High Street.
Increasingly needing money to match his wayward lifestyle, Morland painted incessantly, occasionally to private commission but more often for picture and print dealers. Sometimes having to escape from London to evade his creditors, Morland’s subjects were of nearly every contemporary country pursuit of which hunting and fishing formed a high proportion.
During his lifetime he had 119 paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Free Society (the first when twelve years old) and the Society of Artists (when fourteen). Over 250 plates of his pictures were reproduced, some finely engraved in mezzotint by his brother-in-law William Ward and others by one of the outstanding craftsman of the period, John Raphael Smith.
Between 1800 and 1804, it is known he painted over 380 pictures which understandably led to variable quality, so much so that his work was not difficult to fake. His life, spent mainly in London, revolved around inspired painting, enslavement to dealers, evasion of pursuers aided by a few understanding patrons, making money and quickly spending it in dissipation, and in debtors’ prisons. Released from one of these in 1802, he was again imprisoned in 1804 where, after a short illness, he died on 27 October 1804. His estranged wife, Ann (Ward), whom George had provided for throughout his life, died three days later.